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Rethinking leadership in business to eradicate poverty

Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom
- Nelson Mandela-

I had always been interested with the idea of using business to solve social issues, or if we were to put in another term that was coined by Prof. Yunus, social business since I was 17 when I read a book called Influencer by David Maxfield, Rob McMillan and Joseph Greeny. The social business movement has also been used as a reference in many leadership books, including Dr.Stephen Covey's famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People while he was pointing out some of the leadership traits that was depicted by Muhammad Yunus in helping the poor through his Grameen Bank.

Anthony Robbins said that we desire for growth and we have the need to contribute. I strongly believe that social business is a great platform for that, because those who are in that field are intrinsically motivated by autonomy in what they do, mastery in the skills they wish to refine, and a shared strong purpose which is to solve a social problem.

Most people would argue that they are not interested with social business because they don't plan to start a business. However, entrepreneurship is a behaviour as opposed to a person or an ideology, a mindset of being resourceful in seizing the opportunities available which is useful regardless whether we have our own business or not. It is a perspective that I believe should be changed in the society.
For that reason, I organised a social business forum in my school to change the students' perspective on leadership in business amongst students and here's the result that I wish you will share to your friends.

  • Mar 29 2014: Poverty is caused by a lack of available resources and a monetary system that bases power in the hands of those that control and produce money.

    Businesses help directly and indirectly to reduce and increase poverty depending on their profit motives.

    Businesses that deplete or pollute natural resources creates poverty. Businesses that create a resource that can be used to enhance life decrease poverty.

    The easiest way to decrease poverty therefore is to regulate businesses that are depleting and polluting resources through taxes and put that money into the businesses that are producing technology and products that enhance life through grants and tax breaks.

    New businesses will then form based on that profit incentive and will eventually replace those businesses that have a negative resource model.

    Best of luck with your forum.
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      Mar 31 2014: The idea of using "carrot and stick" sounds good to lead the businesses into the right direction. I feel that the biggest concern would be the implementation, as to not let them take advantage of those incentive in a wrong way, or to be too dependent on such incentives. Because those extrinsic motivators are not as strong and lasting as intrinsic motivators such as proposed by Daniel Pink in his talk on the Puzzles Of Motivation.
      What are your thoughts? :)
      • Mar 31 2014: Once a business switches models and shows a profit the incentive is no longer needed and should be discontinued. The incentive then switches to the value added to the consumer as they recognize companies that are helping to reduce poverty.
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    Mar 27 2014: Thank you for quoting Nelson Mandela. I am from Eastern Cape province in South Africa where he was born. This is the poorest part of South Africa. I have spent > 10 years trying to think about how to create jobs in my home town. Each attempt has been unsuccessful because I did not have a good foundation.

    Thank you for sharing your idea. I will do the same in Eastern Cape and report back my results on TED website.

    Please let me know what social business you have started.
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      Mar 27 2014: Hi Mr.Ramon. The late Mandela is a great man, it is my pleasure to quote him, and I also used this quote during my assembly presentation on social business and eradicating poverty in school.

      Your initiative to generate jobs in your hometown is laudable and I wish you best of luck with that. I hope the social business concept can be useful for you, since the idea of having it is to create jobs through multiplication effect, here is a good video that explains the concept very well

      I'm currently studying A levels right now and I still have much to learn about entrepreneurship. Initially I plan to start a bookstore that serves as a place for orphans to grow through employment and education (using computers that is preloaded with contents from khan academy etc.). However, since I'll be pursuing my studies in overseas soon, I'm currently planning to organise a TEDx event which is more feasible given my situation.
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    Apr 16 2014: I have meet a lot people that uses entrepreneurship in a way they can develop social development, the problem is economy changes drastically and entrepreneurs left their Idea unprocessed for future development.
  • Apr 6 2014: There will always be poverty because there is always going to be a limited amount of resources and there is something worth more then money and that is knowledge and first comes knowledge then comes money. I think money should be used how ever a person wishes to use it after all money is a man made idea. Poor people can be entrepreneurs but in a illegal way but entrepreneurs no the less. The goal is balance between the wealthy and the poor, business and it's consumers, legal and illegal.
  • Apr 3 2014: That the spirit. After 24 years of research I have bravely posted my 1.23 hr talk on the world solution on 'you tube' it is about making 'ONE RECOGNISED COMMUNICATION SYSTEM' that house (8) specific big ideas which also act as, tools for all people worldwide to use. I would like to start making this system in May 2014 IF I can get enough support to make this system by the end of April 2014. I can use all the help I can get to let the people know about this now, it is called: "World Solution 'To Attain Nelson Mandela Wish' Every Person Say" the link is
    I have researched to find this out at my own financial detriment, something I hope noone else has to go through. I have no reservation that I am right about this, it is hard to let everyone know all the why's and wherefore's without the finances to do so. if you would like to contact me my email is:
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    Apr 1 2014: The video is long on praise and short on examples. I have seen more than a few non-profit organizations involved in serving indigent populations that have been infiltrated by the greedy and corrupt who then used the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the indigent and the community at large.

    If enough money is involved the predators will be attracted to it and the more money there is the more cunning and rapacious the predators will be.

    The fact is that there are never going to be enough "jobs" to go around and there will always be those who are unemployable. But turning everything on the planet into a commodity is incredibly short sighted. I agree that a new way of approaching subjects such as poverty and business is essential, but I am sceptical of any profit taking initiative. While the above approach could have some merits I would need far more information about its application as well as its successes before committing any resources to it.
  • Mar 30 2014: Poor people are constantly programmed by the clever people that the the evil entrepreneur have stolen their money and so they are poor.

    They are brained washed into believing that either the government or the GOD or both Government and GOD both love the entrepreneurs and hand them over loads of money without work. So, this is why poor are poor.

    The poor people are made to believe that being entrepreneur is a cake wake and they mint money without doing anything.

    And this way poor people perceive entrepreneurs as DEVILS and EVILS.

    To eradicate poverty the above programming is to be changed in the poor people.They need to shown that how money is invented.

    The ridiculous myths around entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship has to be replaced with the realities of being an entrepreneur and the entrepreneurship.
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      Mar 31 2014: I understand that there is a need for change in mindset amongst the poor people, especially on their perception about entrepreneurship, and I agree with you.

      That is what Professor Yunus did, when he helped the beggars to develop entrepreneurial mindset themselves, which he obviously, faced some resistance at first. But eventually he did, because he deeply believed that we are all born entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurship is not about a person or an ideology, it is a mindset that should be developed to be resourceful in seizing opportunities.
    • Apr 8 2014: There is no such thing as rich and poor after all we are all human and entrepreneurship is a sharp double edged sword because look at Henry Maxim who made the Maxim machine gun the killed ten of thousands of people during World War One but Nikola Tesla gave us alternating current also helped inspire inventors around the world. Another thing watch the 1938 movie You Can't Take It With You might help. You mean clever as in good natured and intelligent because I see no problem with them talking to poor people
  • Mar 27 2014: If you want business to help, there has to be a profit motive.
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      Mar 29 2014: Hi Mr.Wayne,

      I understand that profit or by providing incentives would usually be best to motivate traditional businesses.

      Based on the social business movement, we believe that there should be at least two types of business: the traditional (as in profit driven) and social business (our focus is on solving social issues. Profits are still earned in social business, but it will stay in the organisation so that it can grow, and you can only take the amount of money that you have invested in).

      Just to clarify, social business does not replace anything, it provides an additional option to those who wish to contribute to the society so that they don't just limit their choices with NGOs etc. As for motivation, social entrepreneurs are motivated intrinsically by autonomy, mastery and purpose, which drives them in what to be effective in what they are doing. In his talk on the Puzzles of Motivation and in his book "Drive", intrinsic motivations are crucial in solving complex problems, in other words, crucial in solving some of the pressing social problems that we face today. Besides, small enterprises are more responsive than big organisations like the government due to the nature of their structure, which is why I believe that social business movement should be spread. :)
      • Mar 30 2014: Even the social needs profits - check out the Paul Newman foundation which puts 100 percent either into the business or to fund charities. They still need profits.
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          Mar 31 2014: Of course, even social business do need profits. One of those problems that we face is the notion that money=evil, when actually money only amplifies what kind of person you are. Social business, by its structure, prioritise on solving social issues. And when they earn profits, not only the organisation will be sustainable, they can also be more effective with their goals.