Editorial

Social entrepreneurship and national development

Friday, July 29, 2011    

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WHEN an economy is described as private sector-led and market-driven it is a platitude for a capitalist system. Critics of capitalism have argued that profit is the reward of entrepreneurs, but this is a private gain and how it is earned and how it is used is a private decision motivated by private gain and this is not necessarily in the interest of the whole economy or for the benefit of the majority of the society. Marxists have gone even further to state that profit is private gain derived from the exploitation of labour and therefore entrepreneurs and workers are in a dialectic of class conflict over who gets the economic surplus. They posit communism as the economic formation to eliminate exploitation. The experience of countries trying to create a communist society has been far worse than the excesses of capitalism.

With the discrediting of communism and various forms of socialism, the world is left to find the most humane type of capitalism. The mechanism for redressing the balance between capitalist entrepreneurs and workers and the self-employed is the state. The state seeks to facilitate capitalism while alleviating poverty by redistributing some of the profits through taxation.

What is needed in Jamaica to ensure that economic growth benefits the majority of peoples in the society, by consistently raising the income level of this majority, is social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is that which is not aimed solely at profit, but at private gain which has a social benefit. This genre of entrepreneur includes the purely charitable, non-government organisation, cooperatives and the purely commercial. The distinguishing feature is that their calculus of gain is not solely private profit but gain that is societal in its scope and aims.

Across the world there are myriad hybrid organisations that have their origin in social entrepreneurship and which create value that blends economic, social and environmental dimensions. Entrepreneurs, employees and customers shared the benefits of the enterprise which have found innovative activities, products and services.

Some of this has always taken place in Jamaica, but not on a sufficient scale to coalesce into a critical mass that could make a significant impact on economic development. Social entrepreneurship on a large scale can re-orient Jamaica to a path of economic development by the proliferation of social entrepreneurs sharing common perspective and targeted interventions.

Social entrepreneurs can be the catalyst for a more humane capitalist economy in Jamaica because they live the Christian ethic "to give is to receive" and their praxis is to "gain in a way that as many others benefit". Entrepreneurship would be truly integrated into the mainstream of Jamaican culture because it would benefit workers and the surrounding society yielding tangible beneficial returns across the entire society.

Their activity would make for a society in which the citizens are economic stakeholders and remove from entrepreneurship in all its forms the accusation of self-interested gain by exploitation of others.

Social entrepreneurship has the potential to create a more humane and developmental type of capitalism to the varieties that have prevailed in Jamaica. It is possible to realise the goals of socialism without its inefficiencies and promote the creative initiative of capitalism without the selfishness.

Social entrepreneurship can create in Jamaica an entrepreneur-led, market-operated economy embedded in a social consciousness of shared gain for the majority of the population.

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