The following blog post was written by Carolyn Caton, a Frontier Market Scout.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a workshop on social enterprise and impact investment facilitated by Village Capital, a peer-led accelerator for social ventures. Of the many things I learned, three basic points stuck out: 1) for-profit businesses with genuine social benefit goals can and do exist; 2) some people want to invest in them; and 3) a whole lot of people stand to benefit from them.
These points may seem obvious to some, but to a young professional who cut her teeth in the U.S. non-profit sector, â€śfor-profitâ€ť + â€śsocial goodâ€ť do not always compute. How can I discuss profit in the context of social welfare? What of all the potential conflicts of interests? Can the social objectives of a business withstand a financial crisis? A turnover of leadership?
Fair questions, I know. But throughout the training, I learned that if a business relies on the social impact that it makes, then perhaps these seemingly opposing forcesâ€”profit and social benefitâ€”could coexist. As one example, trainers pointed to Patagonia, a company whose outerwear products inextricably link to its environmentalism. After all, without the great outdoors, who needs outerwear?
Thereâ€™s far more to it than that, of course, and over the coming months, I hope to learn more about this emerging industry and the people shaping its values and its course. Indeed, in just a couple of weeks, I head to Istanbul on a Frontier Market Scout adventure where Iâ€™ll meet with investors, entrepreneurs, and others working hard to make a difference through their social ventures. Stay tuned.
Frontier Market Scouts at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
Village Capital: VilCap.org