What is the relationship of Social Enterprise to Poverty and Charity?

What is the relationship of social enterprise and poverty? Or charity?

Within the IMN we have been chatting about business models.   Rightly so,  business concerns itself with the “bottom line”.   If there is no profit,  there is no business.  Profit is good and so are the businesses that make a profit with offerings that maintain or enhance human life.  Without profit-making business, goods, services,  jobs all go away.

In recent years there has been a lot of attention given to “social” enterprise and social entrepreneurship.  The result has been the creation of a “double bottom line” consciousness.  A decade or so ago when I first heard about this concept,  it was referred to as a “triple bottom line” referring to revenues (gross profit),  net profit,  and social benefit.

The emerging “double bottom line” consciousness concerns itself with both profit and social benefit.   Research suggests that, all things being equal,  consumers would prefer to do business with a company that contributes to the social good.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between what people say they would do and what they actually do. The greed of the average consumer would drive a socially conscious business bankrupt. Times of change are always tempestuous times. The goal is for all business to be conscious of the social impact of their business and for consumers to stop passing the blame for the world’s ills to the corporations.

Tom’s shoes,  which employs a one-for-one business model,  is a popular example of a social enterprise.  For every shoe they sell,  they give a pair away to a poor person somewhere in the developing world.  They make a profit and help better the world.  That’s the theory and intention.

Our hesitation about this model is that,  while it is good-hearted,  it may actually hurt the poor.  For one,  giving shoes to the poor may undercut local shoe makers.  What indigenous shoemaker could compete in a marketplace flooded with free shoes imported from the United States?

poor shoemaker

Another hesitation is that,  while this model “gives a man a fish to eat”,  it doesn’t teach him “how to fish for himself”.   Charity of this sort can create a dependency which hinders the potential economic and entrepreneurial development of nations and families. To it’s credit, TOMS Shoes is also rethinking it’s own strategy.  Give TOMS Shoes credit — and continue to buy their shoes– because credit is due.

At present we’re tweaking TOMS one-for-one business model.  What if,  rather than giving product away for every product sold, we were to give a grant or a “micro-loan” to an entrepreneur in the developing world?   Soon,  through the creativity network called VOXTROPOLIS,  we’re going to release what we call the “MissionT” or the “EnterpriseT”.   For every “EnterpriseT” we sell, buyers will be investing in an indigenous entrepreneur and a locally run business that benefits that local economy.

In time we’ll add more products and we’ll tweak the business model when it doesn’t produce both bottom lines — profit and real social benefit.

Coming soon: Social Enterprise and Sustainability

What do you think?





Anxiety in the 21st Century — A Meditation

Some people define fear by the acronym FEAR– False Expectations Appearing Real.   But fear is the proper response to a perceived  real  danger or threat.   Anxiety is “usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.” (Wikipedia)

In other words,   “False Expectations Appearing Real”  is a way to describe anxiety not fear.    Danger is real in our world.   But,  in this post,  we’re thinking about something more subjective, the feelings of anxiety that are not necessarily connected to a real danger.   When we feel fear,  we want the danger to go away.   And, as soon as it does, the fear goes away. They’re connected.

But anxiety lingers because it may not be connected to anything. It is a more general dis-ease.  And,  anxiety pervades the globe in the 21st century.

I think of it as a feeling that we’re falling.   It doesn’t matter that we’re not really falling because  we feel like we really are.    And the feeling just won’t go away.

This short video below describes the levels and kinds of anxiety felt around the world.
The producers of this video,   JWT Intelligence,   have accumulated tons of data on global anxiety available at anxietyindex.com.   This may be a resource for those of you who are helping people cope with anxiety.   Interestingly enough,   anxiety is not unique to the 21st century.   Watch the video then reflect on the passages of ancient wisdom below.

Jesus told his disciples:   “Therefore I tell you,  do not worry about your life,   what you will eat;   or about your body,   what you will wear.   Life is more than food,   and the body more than clothes.” (Matthew 6.25ff)

Long before Jesus, another wise man wrote:
“An anxious heart weighs a man down,  but a kind word cheers him up”
(Proverbs 12:25, NIV).

The apostle Paul wrote:
“Be anxious for nothing,   but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;   and the peace of God,   which surpasses all understanding,   will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4.6)

The apostle Peter wrote:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”
(1 Peter 5:6-7)

From ancient days to today,   we are an anxious race.   Stop for a moment and rest.  Anxiety is a bully that has stalked us through the ages.   This demon cannot simply be cast out of our minds and hearts.   It must be replaced.

What can replace anxiety?

The apostle John tells us that “Perfect love casts all all fear.” (1 John 4.18)   The love of a friend.   The love of God.   The knowledge that we are not alone…  the experience of not being alone.   To be told to stop worrying is not enough.   We must also replace anxiety with love,   with a deep connection to others,  or even,   to God.   I suspect that ridding ourselves of a companion as persistent as anxiety is going to take all of us.

Entrepreneurs,   offer your services and build your products with love.

Pastors, build communities of love.

Parents,  love your families.

Teachers,  love learning.

Humans,   love one another.

Anxiety.   The Old Testament writers wrote of it,   the New testament writers wrote of it, and it is still being studied and experienced today.   Even knowing “how” to deal with anxiety and understanding that it is “irrational” doesn’t take away the feelings of falling.

Here are some ideas that came to me as I reflected on the passages above…

(1) Stop and breathe and express and confess your feelings of anxiety…
(2) Build a net of people who love who would catch you if ever “your falling” ended
(3) Become a part of that net for others — become “a cheerful word giver”
(4) Clear your conscience by asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness
(5) Get perspective, Look at the bigger picture
(6) Replace “I can’t” with “I can”
(7) Reach out with your heart for God
(8) Exercise
(9) Rest
(10) Enjoy the moment (or you’ll miss living your life as you wait for that unknown thing you fear –which may never happen– to come)
(11) Be kind
(12) Do what needs to be done one thing at a time, one step at a time

The spirit of anxiety has been with us for a long time. I suspect it may take a collective and global effort to cast it out for good.

Much love to you…

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What do you think?

Atheists Start New Churches

TOPIC: The Human Need for Community
FINDING: Atheists Give Starting Their Own Churches (called The Sunday Assembly) a Try (Click “Finding” text to tweet. Thanks!)

One implication of atheist churches is that (hopefully) they may help lonely people connect with others.  That’s good.  Humans need community.  Atheist churches may also encourage atheists to “help others often”.  I say,  welcome aboard.  Too many hurting people out there to demand a monopoly on caring.

Another implication may be the development of atheist communities that are about more than “what they don’t believe”.  The Sunday Assembly mission statement- “live better, help often, wonder more”- is hardly atheist.  It would fit nicely within the mission statement of many Theistic churches too.  And, without a reason, a purpose, a mission beyond “non-belief” these communities would most likely fizzle.  Hopefully, these atheist churches will inspire generosity and self sacrifice as have many of the Theistic churches. There’s not enough of that going around and every bit of help is appreciated.

The loss of a sense of community is a symptom of the malaise that afflicts western culture.  Partly in response to this, over the last 4 decades, Christians have made huge efforts to start new churches in the west.

In part,  this is premised on the need all humans feel for community.  The need for community is so powerful that now even atheists are seeking to satiate the hunger.

Because I work with many young leaders who are starting new enterprises many of which are new churches,  I can tell you that starting a new church is hard.  These new “atheists churches” may experience an early surge because there are many self-identified atheists who long for a place to belong.   But these efforts may flounder in time because the “need for one another” is not a strong enough adhesive for community.  Personally,  I think they’ve got an uphill climb.

I doubt, for example,  that their numbers are growing as rapidly as they think.  Recent demographic research has identified a growing population that does not identify with religion. They are called “nones”.   But the so called “nones”,  who do not identify with any religion,  may actually represent a large number of devout believers who no longer identify with the institutional church.   In fact, many people that I know would claim to be a “none” because of their devotion to their faith.

Another challenge before these new churches that will emerge after the initial surge is the development of a mission. Take the efforts to launch new Christian churches.  The “need for community” that helps new Christian churches start is only one part of the recipe that helps them thrive.  Another essential piece is the “bigger picture”,  the grand narrative,  that gives meaning and purpose to the new community.  Even with this important piece,  starting a new church is difficult work.

Will atheists succeed in finding a purpose, a mission that will breathe life into their community development efforts?  Just “getting together” may not be enough.  In order to thrive,  these atheist churches will need both a sense of mission and healthy leadership.   Ironically,  if atheists communities are to succeed, they will need to “believe” in something. Whatever they “believe” and act upon will define their  “faith”.

As mentioned above, one of the implications of atheists churches is that (hopefully) they may help lonely people connect with others.  That’s good.  They may also encourage atheists to “help others often”.  I say,  welcome aboard.  Too many hurting people out there to want a monopoly on caring.

Does it matter if a lonely human is cared for by those who do not believe?  Or,  if a person is encouraged to be a better person by someone who does not believe?

For me,  I’m happy to see anyone — atheist or theist — strive to make this world a little more human.

The mission statement for The Sunday Assembly is  “live better, help often, wonder more”.  For me “making the world human” through “living better, helping often, and wondering more” is only a small part of the human story,  but it’s a good part of the story.

Christians,  in particular,  should rejoice when others seek to emulate their efforts to make this world better for everyone.  And we should try to help others who are trying to figure it out.  After all,  Christians,  in spite of the decline of the institutional churches in the West,  are expert at community creation and development  and would be helpful resources to these new communities.

An even better resource would be the life and teachings of Jesus.  He does not belong to the church.  He belongs to the world.  And he knew a thing or two about creating community.

The gospel has had enough energy to sustain a movement for over two thousand years without any signs of burning out.  If anything,  it burns hotter today than ever and still churns out thousands of new communities around the world. Christian churches and leaders would be a great resource for atheist churches and their leadership,  should they ever run dry or need help figuring how to keep communities together.  After all,  becoming human is not easy and we could all use a little help.


“…the Sunday Assembly is a British import, but with a difference: This church doesn’t believe in God. It’s motto is “live better, help often, and wonder more.” It’s striving to be a global atheist religion.”

“The stated goal is to have ‘a godless congregation in every town, city, and village that wants one’ — and hopefully 30 to 40 by the end of December. If they reach that goal, the Sunday Assembly says in a press release, ‘the 3000 percent growth rate might make this non-religious Assembly the fastest growing church in the world, catering to the fastest growing belief / non-belief group.'”


(1) http://theweek.com/article/index/250032/why-atheists-are-starting-their-own-global-church
(2) The Sunday Assembly Main Website
(3) JWT Intelligence

The Faith Track at M2013

A few years ago, when I was considering taking a certificate course on Strategic Futures at the University of Houston, I asked Peter Bishop, a UH professor of sociology and then director of the Future’s program, if he thought that Foresight had any relevance for churches and faith leaders. He answered, churches have a future too.

When it comes to the future, Christians are often identified with pop-culture references like the “Left Behind Series” or with “end of the world” predictions and milleniallisms. M2013 is designed to help faith movement leaders think about the future in dynamic ways that IMPACT THE PRESENT. The M experience is designed to get you thinking out of the box by immersing you in a multi-disciplinary conversation about the future.

M places a faith-track directly in the midst of a broader cultural conversation about the future. The design is to cross pollinate the imagination of all participants with ideas that come from other domains of thought whether that domain be economics or entertainment, politics or pop culture, education or video gaming.

This year at M the four major tracks of thought will be “the future of education”, “the future of entrepreneurship”, “the future of faith”, and “creativity and the human future”. Think of M as a kind of cost effective and friendly “TED-like” experience to help you and your team get your feet into the water of culture.

In this future oriented context, participants will also take deep dives through “specializations” directly related to their needs and interests will be discussed. I write this post to people of faith because you may be like me wondering if a conference on the future has any relevance to you. My answer to you is that thinking about the future is relevant to all of us.

In terms of the faith track, for example, Erwin McManus will lead a specialization on CREATIVITY and Leadership Development. While relevant to every registrant, this specialization will have special relevance to faith leader. Alex McManus will lead a specialized session for the Faith-track on the “life-transformation” economy.  These deep dives will be supercharged as the provocative general sessions allow new connections to be made between the practice of faith and the emerging futures.

The flow of the experience for your team — and for every participant regardless of which track they’re in — will go like this each day:

General Session Presentations — short BIG IDEAS given during the general sessions

Questions and Answers — debriefing and DISCUSSION sessions with presenters to unpack ideas

Specializations — content and APPLICATIONS for your specific industry

If you are a believer, pastor, or faith movement leader, this will be a professional development opportunity to which you can not only bring your staff but also invite the teachers, entrepreneurs, thinkers, and techies in your congregation. We hope you’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity and join us at M2013. Let’s get out of our ruts! Advance purchase ticket rates end on Sept 21.

New Definitions of Privacy and Trash Collection Collide

TOPIC: Information Gathering and Privacy
TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

In May 2013 UK ad firm, Renew, embedded technology within trash bins that interacted with the smart devices of pedestrians passing by.

Certainly this is a story about technology, but I placed it in the “Society” category because of the implications with regard to privacy. My sense is that we will not be able to stop the proliferation of these kinds of technologies. Ultimately, everything about us will be “known” or, at least, discoverable at all times. The implications of this is that the very meanings of “personal” and “private” will mean something quite different at the end of this century than they did at the beginning. trashbinThe ideas of “personal” and “private” are both social constructs that have differing meanings across time and culture. In the future, they may be archaic words with only ancient meanings or words with redefined meanings that we cannot yet fathom.


“We will cookie the street,” Renew Chief Executive Kaveh Memari.


“The trash cans join a host of everyday objects from televisions to toilets that are being manufactured with the ability to send and receive data, opening up new potential for interaction — and surveillance.”



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World’s First Brain-to-Brain Interface

TOPIC: First human-to-human brain interface


FINDING: University of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher.

IMPLICATIONS: While it’s not Mr. Spock’s Vulcan Mind Meld, the implications of this are still staggering. We’re already imagining a future in which we will not need devices… no iPhones, no iPads, nothing… to communicate. All will need is to be wirelessly connected to the ubiquitous information stream all around us. And now we’re taking things to a whole new level. I can see this as the premise for a new movie about a “kidnap” victim in which the word “kidnapped” has a whole new meaning. Rather than being taken, the victim is invaded and forced to do things by another human through a mind-to-mind internet connection. The excuse, the devil made me do it, doesn’t fly. But maybe, my neighbor or “friend” made me do it, will.


“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”


First Human Brain-to-Brain Interface

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What are other implications? What do you think?

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“Bionic Skin for Cyborg You”

Topic: Electronic Skin for Humans

TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

Finding: The continuing work to develop an electronic skin could be used to monitor medical conditions or to provide more sensitive and lifelike prosthetics.

Implications: Future Earth is occupied by three kinds of “human-like” beings: cyborgs, clones, and robots. Imagine everything you touch, the moment you touch it, as a way of reading how your body is doing. Your steering wheel, for example, will automatically measure your blood pressure and heart rate and send that information to your healthcare providers alerting them and you to any signals of trouble. That has lots of positives. But what are the implications to “privacy”. Will the meaning of “privacy” and “personal” will have entirely different, or at least antiquated, meanings in a future in which not only your email is being read, but you yourself?

Memorable quotes:
First Quote

“Your skin is essentially an interface between your brain and the external world. It senses a tap on the shoulder or the heat from a fire, and your brain takes in that information and decides how to react. If we want bionic skins to do the same, they must incorporate sensors that can match the sensitivity of biological skins.”

Second Quote

“Human skin is so thin, yet it serves as a boundary between us and the external world. My dream is to make responsive electronic coverings that bridge that divide. Instead of cold metal robots and hard plastic prosthetics, I imagine machines and people clothed in sensitive e-skin, allowing for a two-way exchange of information. Making our mechanical creations seem almost warm and alive and placing imperceptible electronics on humans will change how people relate to technology. The harmonization of people and machines: This is the cyborg future that e-skins could bring.”

Source: Bionic Skin for a Cyborg You

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What are other implications? What do you think?

Singleness and Sustainable Cities

S for SocietyTopic: Singleness and the Sustainability of Future Cities
TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts
Finding: As the number of people who live “solo” grows, cities become more sustainable.
Implications: Existing cities trying to embrace this future may focus on improved public transport for the growing number of elderly and young professional solos. Might automobiles become frowned upon and eventually even banned from within the city limits? Imagine a carless NYC. The existing cities of the future may become childless places for people who are at the beginning third of their careers or at the sunset of their lives. Entirely new cities may emerge that will cater to those with a bent towards marriage and family.

Source: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/07/rise-people-living-alone-has-led-more-sustainable-cities/6212/

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What do you think? What possible implications do you see or connections do you make?

Will Zoos Disappear?

S for Society
Topic: Costa Rica Closes Zoos

TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

Finding: Costa Rica plans to close its two zoos and end the caging of animals by May of 2014

Implications: Is this a “weak signal” foreshadowing the disappearance of zoos world wide? The costa rican feeling about this is that they want a new way of interacting with nature. Are we entering a new era in which returning the whole of the world to as pristine a state as possible becomes a value and a goal? It may be that returning animals to the wild may be a reflection of the human desire to return to a more natural, holistic way of being connected to the natural world.

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/costa-rica-close-zoos-citing-change-environmental-conscience-1371161

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What do you think?
What possible implications do you see or connections do you make?

An ocelot at Zoo Ave in Costa Rica. (CC/Hans Hillewaert)


Are You Shark Proof?


Topic: Shark Proof Wet Suit

TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

Finding: Developed in Australia, new wet suit makes surfers and swimmers invisible (or repellent) to sharks.

Implications: Will this technology create a new tourist industry for those of us who would like to see these animals in the wild? Will other technologies follow that will help humans become invisible or undesirable to other predators in the wild? How about, for example, a suit that makes us invisible to bears? How will this combine with something like the Costa Rican initiative to close down their Zoos and return their animals to the wild? Will we enter a new era in which the whole of the natural world is a relatively safer nature park for humans?


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