Dave Kelly

Manufacturing Manager, Hamsar Diversco Inc

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Can a social business/enterprise be run in a way that more closely resembles the equal society it strives to create?

There are many social businesses around the world that are working towards improving some aspect of society. I would say that all of these improvements are steps towards a more equal society for all people (everyone has shelter, food, clothing, opportunity, etc).

However, many of these companies (not all of course) are still run in traditional ways such as a standard hierarchy system, unequal compensation, unequal decision making, etc.

Is it possible for a social business to be run in a different manner? In a way that more closely resembles what we HOPE the future is like? Can a company demonstrate their desired future by example?

Some of the thoughts/ideas I've had on things that could be done differently are:

- More then one or two "founders". Can there be 20 or 50 or 100 people with the same goal working together from the start of the business?
- Equal pay among at least the founding members (possibly all workers?)
- 100% voting on important issues (what constitutes an important issue?)
- "Leaders" only for specific tasks as laid out by the entire team (ie. find ideal source for X material needed)
- Equal investment (time and money) by members.
- Founding members from around the world (better understanding of world issues and markets)

These are just some of the thoughts I've had on this subject. I look forward to hearing what others have to say.

** I am doing this as research for a possible social business startup of my own. If anyone is intrigued by anything discussed here and would like to talk further about making something like this a reality, please contact me through Ted. Thanks.**

  • Oct 27 2013: Its my view that the proliferation of social business is the answer to environmental sustainability and social justice. Social business like any business must satisfy the needs of their consumers and those businesses that can operate transparently and efficiently will prevail. I expect that supply and demand of talent will determine the pay rates within social business. Its the only way i know to get the right people doing what they are good at. I wrote an essay on this issue if it interests you. see goviralbaby.com
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      Oct 28 2013: Hi Conor,

      You have some interesting ideas in your essay. My question is, how do you envision getting companies to switch to this new plan?

      Thanks for the input.
      • Oct 29 2013: The growth of the ethical business sector may be driven by two drivers.
        Firstly ethical consumers may join in a system of personal reputation building. eg they are awarded electronic reputation points when they purchase and consume ethically. (social business may collaborate on a scheme to run the points system). Ethical behaviour can go viral as we strive to have good reputations not wishig to be left of no reputation.

        Current companies may switch to the new plan as their ownership moves over to charitable status.
        This can be achieved through legacies and wills. (The RNLI in the uk (lifeboat sea rescue charity) gathers a high proportion of revenue from wills.)
        Leaving a legacy of some company shares to charity (or wealth which can be used for share purchasing by charities) may transform the behaviour of companies who will change their behaviour to reflect the wishes of the shareholders.
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    Oct 23 2013: What about a Workers' Co-operative?

    Here is an example right in your neighborhood:

    Here are some examples from the UK:
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      Oct 24 2013: Thanks for the reply Lejan. I appreciate your mention of workers co-operatives and I've looked into these and watched the links you provided.

      Do you think that co-operatives can function properly if their main goal is to help solve social issues ahead of what is best for the members of their co-operative?
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        Oct 24 2013: I think this highly depends on the people of a coop.

        Usually and by its intrinsic nature 'long term social issues' are incompatible with the mechanics our our current corporate markets, in which coops have to adjust to certain extends for their survival.

        And although coops open more space for 'soft' factors than usual corporations, which most of them use for the benefit of the workers/owners themselves, a 'long term social issue' without additional funding would probably overstrain the financial flexibility those coops would be able to provide.

        If funding wouldn't be an issue (haha) and already granted, an organizational framework around would work as coop as fine or even better.

        One fundamental advantage of coops is the self-motivational effect it has on the people and the quality and quantity of their work. It also allows for deeper and longer lasting identification and loyalty towards the spirit of what is produced or provided, as it allows the people to actively shape it.

        On social issues, this wouldn't be a bad idea at all.
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          Oct 26 2013: I think there are some good ideas from co-ops that could be used in a social business, but not all. It would be a fine balancing act between what is best for the co-op and what helps achieve the social businesses goal. Like you mentioned, when it comes to money tough decisions would have to be made. The structure of a coop may work, but the goals of a coop may have to be altered.

          These are all great things to think about.