Social Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprises – Blog Post 07.24.2022

– the OCD ghost motif from Liberate: My OCD Fighter’s website

In 2018, Kajaal Gupta and a team of artists released the app Liberate: My OCD Fighter on Google Play. This is an example of social entrepreneurship because Gupta, having recognized her own issue of dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and hoping to remedy it for herself and for others, developed an accessible, pocketable, private tool for people struggling with the disorder. The app gives them the ability to track their compulsions and record their progress toward defeating the analogous ghost that represents OCD. The intention behind this innovation was to solve an issue regarding mental health, first and foremost. That sort of ideology is at the heart of social entrepreneurship.

One advantage that I see to this venture is that it utilizes modern and layman technology to address an ongoing social issue. It doesn’t require a major amount of floor space for a large machine, nor does it require an intricate understanding of the disorder itself. Simply, the solution can be held in a person’s hand. However, as a limitation, the fact that this is an app on a cell phone might fuel the problem, or even lead to other problems. Though technology can be put to use for the mediation of mental disorders, it’s also quite efficient at causing new ones. I imagine it would be very simple for someone to innocently open their phone to log a compulsion from a minute ago, and then to get lost in a mindless scroll through any of their many social media feeds.

– from jacobin.com

Lush is an example of a social enterprise. They produce cosmetics in, as they would argue, a sustainable and restorative manner. The very first product they promote on their website is an orangutan-resembling bath bomb, all the revenues of which (minus taxes) are donated to the Sumatran Orangutan Society. In addition, Lush touts its ingredient sourcing as being yet another facet of their overall sustainable vision. For example, rather than importing their charcoal from unsustainable operations, they get it from the Dorset Charcoal Company which is local to them in the U.K. Dorset Charcoal Company employs sustainable woodland management, advertising that the wood they use abides the UK Forestry Standards. So, in reality, Lush and the Dorset Charcoal Company are both examples of social enterprises.

I immediately recognize that a large advantage to marketing oneself as a social enterprise is that, in today’s world, most preexisting companies in a lot of industries are well established in old practices, fearing the newer, more sustainable and more innovative methods. That means that, for a time, new enterprises can rest easy in a Blue Ocean. A limitation, however, is that consumers still make irrational decisions. This could be for a variety of reasons, like information asymmetry and time and cost constraints. The point is that some consumers are still likely to support unsustainable business practices, and this withholds potential business from the more socially-minded endeavors. When Lush gives away 100% of their revenues from their orangutan bath bombs, they lose money. If, however, they can account for that with enough sales of their other products, then it works out. But that is not yet a guarantee.

For my own part, I think I’m more interested in being a general social entrepreneur than doubling down on a particular social enterprise. What I want is to amass enough wealth so that I can affect change without needing to be concerned about my next meal. I want to live comfortably, of course, but I also don’t want to have a lot of money and let that be it. I don’t want to waste away in a mansion on a hill. I want to change the world. As it happens, I need money to do that. I think the most effective tactic is to attain plenty of money through typical entrepreneurial means, and then, once I’ve reached a point of financial sustainability, to go off and take on project after project, regardless of the profit margins.