My top learnings 2015 – Social world: give business a chance!


Social change needs business, trade instead of gifts
Social change needs business, trade instead of gifts
 It is a fascinating world, the social world and the work of NGOs. No doubt: there are a lot of good projects ongoing and the need for the activities they run is obvious.The world needs to change.  The challenges are huge. There is a lot to do: environmental issues, climate, human rights, poverty, refugees, development work of social disadvantaged groups…. Like in all organizations – be it in the social, be it in the business world- there are those who are doing better than others, and those who achieve results in a more sustainable way. 

In 2015, I had a lot if opportunities to talk to NGOs:International ones, national ones, small organisations and big players.      

The learning 
Independent from where the NGOs engage there are two main issues: 

1. Often the activities are good, but too many times there is a huge financial dependence on others, which works as long as those stakeholders pay. If they stop many  initiatives fail immediately and often totally. Sometimes the social conditions are even more aweful as local original solutions are not in place anymore.  The traditional “donation approach” is still the main model in a world where too much is uncertain and business finance and private donations vary. Funding managers do a good job, but they can’t ensure a long term success. So, what to do?

It’s time to rethink. And to collaborate with business instead of taking money only. Engagement, real involvement and “developing” together can make a huge difference. 

Some NGOs have developed own income sources, e.g. as learning centers for others. However, a big hurdle are legal restrictions. The old laws of how social organisations can gain money or not are still very restrictive. But why? Why there is this artificial  separation  between doing good and doing business?

2) The second huge challenge is often the self understanding of NGOs. A real collaboration with the business, with Corporates? Mixed development activities and running them together? Money is well seen, but an engagement by and with Corporates? No, never ever. That’s what it often the first reaction by NGOs. They simply don’t believe that also within business there are people who have in interest to change the world that goes beyond money. Too many negative examples are published in the media. If businesses engage , the terminology of greenwashing is not far away. Whether it’s true or not. Social and business world have worked always separately in the last fifty years. It can’t go well. Can it?

I wish that the general openness of social players would change and give some businesses a chance. Not always the financial benefit for the “rich, the business people” is the motivation. Not always what business thinks is “bad”. There are so many good as bad businesses in the world as social players. 

It is worth to rethink and to give it a try. Because alone no one of both could really realize a better world in the past. The world needs trade, not gifts. Social and business should work together instead of separating their goals. 

What do you think?

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