What I think of Social Enterprises as a business person in the charity world
How did it all start?
While being asked “who do you want to be in the future?” to everyone’s surprise my answer was not the typical little girl’s reply of “I want to be a princess”. I wanted something else; I knew I wanted to be a businesswoman with my own charity.
Every time when I need to make a big decision of my life I always follow my intuition. That is what happened when later on the time came to choose my study course. I spontaneously decided to go to an international university fair in my city- Warsaw (Poland). That is where I found out about the option of “International Business and Languages” in Rotterdam. I put everything on that card and did not look back. Now here I am, currently in my third year of studies in the Rotterdam Business School.
It was only after my first year of studies that I realized that pure-commercial business was not for me. I was missing a more meaningful part in it. One year later, when I needed to do a mandatory extra minor course, I chose the option of “social enterprises”. At first, I was not enthusiastic about it. Funny enough, I never expected that that was actually what I would want to do in life.
People say, “if you really want something and you believe in it, it will come on your path”.
Apparently I did believe in it strongly enough, because my whish of working in the sector of social enterprises started to become a realitywith LAFF.
What I am doing now
Since the begging of studies, I knew that I want to do my internship in Latin America because of two main reasons: Firstly, I wanted to work in a Spanish speaking environment, as this language is one of my main passions. Secondly, I always wanted to live, at least for a bit, in a Latin culture to be able to explore it from a citizen perspective- not a touristic one. Therefore, I applied to many different internships in Latin America, one of them being an offer about a social enterprise position in Cusco, Peru. I did not know much about Peru, but the idea of Peru felt good. So, I gave it a chance and I applied for the position with LAFF.
During my skype interview, when Marcela, LAFF’s Programme Manager, asked me if I knew something about social enterprises, I got chills, because that is what I was dreaming about.
Thankfully, I was accepted to start as Social Enterprise Coordinator, so my wish came true!
Here I am now in Cusco, as a Social Enterprise Coordinator at LAFF and I can honestly say I love my internship here.
What does “social enterprise” mean?
“A social enterprise is a commercial organization that has specific social objectives that serve its primary purpose. Social enterprises seek to maximize profits while maximizing benefits to society and the environment. Their profits are principally used to fund social programs.” (Investopedia, 2018)
Social enterprises exist at the intersection of the private and voluntary sectors, and this is where the business world meets volunteering world. But for me it means more than that.
It just means the perfect balance between working in business area while combining it with charity world.
It means making money while making the world better.
It means using my business knowledge, but for a good cause, not just for making profit.
It means supporting an organisation and its beneficiaries by improving their organisations, so they can have more resources to support their cause in a sustainable way.
But what is even more, here in LAFF I know personally all the organizations and it is beneficiaries that the social enterprises I am working with are supporting. And that gives me extra motivation for my work.
It is a challenging task
Although all employees and owners of the social enterprises we support are people with big hearts, most of them do not have enoughbusiness knowledge and experience. This makes it difficult to run a business and use maximise its potential. As a result, as from what I have been able to see, main discussions and ideas are based more on personal opinions and feelings rather than business. That is why, sometimes, our meetings started with me explaining some business concepts and strategies before taking any decisions.
What would you say if I tell you that both worlds – business and charity – can benefit from each other?
The business world
Social enterprises make the image of the commercial business world more human.
business people can get extra motivation and more meaning in their job, which makes the whole business more effective.
Thanks to that, for example here in Peru, some women from the Andescommunities who are making handmade crafts, can start their small businesses and become entrepreneurs.
This also makes the tourism sectormore sustainable by supporting communities with the opportunity to develop further while earning extra income.
Last but not least, this creates new and more creative ways of marketing and business strategies.
The charity world
Not only small projects supported by social enterprises, but the NGOs themselvesbenefit from theinvolvement of business people and business concepts by becoming moresustainable, structured and independent financially due to the earned profit from the social enterprises, instead of depending solely on donations which very often not regular.
I believe the concept of social enterprise is highly beneficial. Nowadays, we live mainly in a commercial world where it seems that the only important factor is profit. That is why we need more initiatives like these, that highlight positive social change as a priority.
If it is money what mainly rules the world, why shouldn’t we at least combine it with the social sector, which is what in the end of the day can help change the lives of many for the better?