Shifting ‘good business’

22 September 2015

Anthony Cabraal of Enspiral makes the case that social enterprise is just smart business people making great decisions.

Business is our most effective way of organising and motivating people into action. It pays the bills. It gets things done. It grows quickly. Right now, the collective force we call ‘business’ owns the highway and is driving our world to a dangerous place.

At the same time technology is dramatically shifting the possibility horizon for humanity right now. Our industries and ways of doing everything from democracy and decision making to education, media, energyhospitality, transport and the future of the workplace are all radically changing.

We need more people using the tools and systems of business to solve the biggest challenges of our time

Business isn’t easy. After learning the hard way as a founder in the 2013 Lightning Lab, it was awesome to contribute and apply the learning by helping Guy, Charlotte and the Inspiring Stories Trust team to set up the Live the Dream Social Enterprise accelerator the summer of 2013/14.

Programmes like Live the Dream spark talented communities, great partnerships and upskill people to launch themselves into new ventures — after the first two years of the programme many participants are now building careers focused on turning a social or environmental problem into a functioning business.

That is not an easy thing to do and we really need people to do more of it, really quickly.

The future fund is a bold attempt to shift $1million to help unleash a generation of New Zealanders inspired to change the world. It will help massively scale the impact of programmes like Live the Dream and drive a wave of awesomeness through this country’s social and economic fabric. In the larger scheme of things, it is a very small amount of money and will generate long, valuable returns, in other words — a good investment.

To me the heart of business is problem solving. Businesses generate profit by solving a problem for someone in an economically efficient way. As a business owner, your only job is to solve the problems that serve the solutions your customers need.

Are they social entrepreneurs or are they just business people doing it right?

Business people are smart, they get things done, they run for president and they run countries. They know how to turn ideas into powerful, scalable machines that generate vast profit. Through programmes like Live the Dream and the work that brings together the Enspiral network, I’m constantly inspired by people driving amazing businesses and projects with world changing intent. Lately it seems the businesses that do this get labelled social enterprises.

Why is that?

From what I can see, they are just people doing business, focused on solving a problem that creates more social, environmental and economic value than destruction, more good than harm — if that is a social enterprise, then what do we call a business that isn’t a social enterprise?

What do we call business that succeeds economically at the expense of people or the environment? Is it an anti-social enterprise? What is an anti-social enterprise? How much room do we have on this planet for anti-social enterprises?

I believe initiatives like the future fund will shift resources to inspire and enable more people to help shift “social enterprise” from the margins and see it for what it really is, just good business. So, let’s do this, let’s make this happen, let’s help Inspiring Stories to launch New Zealand’s next wave of business leaders who generate more value than they extract and make another global example of how this country continues to lead the world.

This article first appeared as a blog on the Enspiral Tales site.