Day 316: The Social Entrepreneurial Spirit

by Claire, Claire@TrippingOnWords.com

Recently, someone told me they thought I should go to business school. This was because I was giving them my theory of money at the same time as I was telling them the idea for a brilliant business that I think should exist. And I suppose they could not come up with anything better to respond with. To recap, here is my theory of money:

Money is fundamentally silly, and usually messes things up. Enough to live on is very important, and by "live" I mean be kind, have fun, and try to make yourself and those around you happy. Anything beyond that, though, you should just put in a bag and send to some person or country who needs it more. Because it sucks to be really poor, and 1/3 of our world shouldn't have to be. We do have a responsibility for our fellow humans, and pretending we don't is pathetic. And also cowardly.

I thought about the whole me going to business school thing, because I'll think about anything for 5 minutes. And, although I decided to stick to the plan of finishing a PhD in Anthropology at some point, I would never rule anything out, and a business degree would be interesting to tack on.

Lara and I were talking about this on the phone today, because I was telling her I have been reading Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty, and she was telling me about Brad and Angelina. Jeffrey Sachs, in case you forget, is the extraordinary economist who also consults Brad and Angie and other stars on how to give. His daughter is also a childhood friend of Lara's, and so Lara gets updates from the daughter when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or Madonna or someone famous come over to the Sachs family house. I have some foggy memory of going to some frat party with Lara and said daughter when the daughter came and visited Lara in college, and so I always ask about her. Plus, the girl does really interesting work now. It has absolutely nothing to do with me wanting Brad and Angie updates.

But back to me being in business. Were I to be in business, I would be a social entrepreneur. Although I have used this word with wild abandon for years, an actual symposium I went to on Sunday confirmed to me what the actual definition was. So now I will use it even more regularly. Today, my mother found evidence of one of my early acts of social entrepreneurship in the form of this red flier.

Need a Baby-Sitter?
Call Claire at 555-5555

A Responsible, Soon-to-be 15 year-old.
Lots of Baby-sitting experience!
Loves Having Fun with Kids!
Plus - I'm right in the neighborhood.

P.S. You can also call me for other PET-SITTING, MAIL-COLLECTING, GARDEN-WATERING services...thanks!

Now, the reason I refer to this as an act of social entrepreneur(iality)/(ism) is that I know for a fact that what I earned babysitting in high school was beyond atrocious (3-4$ per hour only 10 years ago) and, thus, the the measure of my success was surely determined not by the profits of my business (nil, as referenced above) but by the happiness of the children I aided.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I take HUGE issue with the "just send a bag of money to someone poor" philosophy. It is far more smart and economical in the long run to teach people how to do something to make more money (business ideas) or live better (farming or agricultural education). For example, if you consider welfare, [before the reform] families would just coast by on welfare because people were handing them free money. They had no motivation to change their lives, because other people were taking care of them. It is one thing to send aid, in the form of food, clothes, medicine, to person(s) needing such things. I personally find it quite lazy to "just send money" to charities. If you want to make a change, work to change people's lives, by teaching them useful skills. It is far better to teach independence than dependence. If the good stops once the money is gone, what is the real good? People then know what they're missing, and they become bitter.

Hopefully you don't find this offensive, but while I think you two are really on the right track about many of the things you do, y'all are still quite naive. Having a completely equal world, without poverty, is something that's never going to happen, and the world would fall apart if it did. Many of us thought that way in our teens and twenties, and then real-life experience taught us that it wasn't feasible.

Finally, considering money "fundamentally silly" is laughable, hopelessly naive, and simplistic. It also smacks of what I've long called "reverse snobbery" -- people who are snobs against those with money. You'll get to a point when to enjoy life, you'll need to have the money to do it. Living is not a matter of how cheaply it can be done, once you get out of college. You can't feel guilty about being born in a first world economy country; and you can't assume that it's the way everyone else should live. That's as egotistical, wrong and offensive as missionaries 'taming the natives' by bring Christianity to their lives.

Claire and Lara said...

I think anyone in their right mind might take HUGE issue with the at times absurd paragraph I wrote, which, to recap, read:

"Money is fundamentally silly, and usually messes things up. Enough to live on is very important, and by "live" I mean be kind, have fun, and try to make yourself and those around you happy. Anything beyond that, though, you should just put in a bag and send to some person or country who needs it more. Because it sucks to be really poor, and 1/3 of our world shouldn't have to be. We do have a responsibility for our fellow humans, and pretending we don't is pathetic. And also cowardly."

Development 101: Obviously it's far better to teach independence than dependence. And obviously saying money is "fundamentally silly" is a provocative and sarcastic statement, which, although it holds some truth, should not be taken at face value. As for putting money in a bag, I don't think you should trust the post office anyway, as you know, it might go to the wrong address. Again, sarcasm.

However, don't hide behind the fact that we are "naive" in commenting that you don't support welfare (we do) and that you don't think first worlds should be guilty (we do).

I work with the volunteers in NGOs (maybe you do as well for all I know, Anonymous) and I believe that guilt is one of the best motivating forces on our planet for getting people to actually do something.

Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

I never said that I don't support welfare. I *do* support welfare, because I know the line between hard times and needing help can be very thin. I've seen it firsthand. Welfare can be a middle ground between hard times and being homeless (and thus having far, far more difficulty to become un-homeless). I just don't support "lifetime welfare." I've worked in a local government office that dealt with many welfare recipients, and the percentage of people that actually used it as a stopgap while they worked to get a job or a better job or a college degree was nearly infintessimal.

I also did not say that first world countries should be guilty. I said that you (or anyone else for that matter) should not feel guilty because *they were born in a first world country.* I do not take issue with the fact that first world countries must take accountability for their actions.

PLEASE read correctly.

Also, guilt is really the wrong way to go about getting attention/donors. That smacks of Christianity and Catholicism, and most other major religions, too. Guilt does not inspire respect, nor does it inspire the will to do good. It merely inspires low self-esteem and the misplaced desire to please someone that is manipulating them, instead of doing something because they believe in it. Getting people's attention and respect is a better way to get long-term supporters/volunteers, and better support. Make it interesting and people will be more involved -- not just sending money and then forgetting about it.

claire said...

"I also did not say that first world countries should be guilty."

Huh? I know. I'm the one who said that.

I'm confused but it's weird to fight with anonymous. As for your points, I disagree, but am really glad that we're both doing our parts to get involved in such an issue...have a great day;)

Real Time Web Analytics