Emerging out of a social impact get-together one evening last week, a question that keeps popping into my head parked itself in the middle of my mind. “Will these good conversations be turned into good action?”
Surrounded by great people from near and far, with the skills and experience to come up with ideas that can help to alleviate social issues like child hunger, the concentration of poverty, access to housing and domestic violence, a cynical voice in my head wondered “what will come out of this evening of commentary?”
One bright takeaway was a shared thought that I really believe in: that real social change doesn’t start with coordination from the top, from the observatory. It happens on the ground, in the places that are affected, by those that have been affected and want to wipe away the issues that plague their community. Social entrepreneurs, who truly understand the issue and can delve into the causes and rally their community to take action by acting themselves, are the ones who can make meaningful changes. Through pragmatism rather than perfect planning. Through walking rather than talking. There’s a disconnect between well-intentioned governments and institutions and the areas where social problems exist. Everything needs to be measured and justified and ultimately, gets slowed by the checks and balances of large organisations.
At the very core of government involvement is the democratic dilemma: that long term plans fall by the wayside in favour of short term stopgap initiatives. The misfit between short term government cycles and long term sustained social issues creates an incentive misalignment. For me, government’s inability to really confront social issues will remain — there’s always an easy excuse: complexity of measuring, risk aversion, lack of clear financial or social return, the effort required, the opportunity cost of addressing a single cause, etc — because it’s a slow moving machine.
It’s up to proactive problem-tacklers to lead and let government follow with their support — social enterprises and not-for-profits solving real and immediate issues by simply doing.
Now, with the full crowdfunding arsenal of Project, Equity and Lend, we want to give social enterprises and not-for-profits the chance to fund their causes through their communities. We want to let them thrive in an environment that they can co-create with their crowd. They choose their cause, their community and the social, financial and emotional rewards that they can offer to investors.
For investors seeking social impact, be proactive. You can’t rely on the quick and effective distribution of your tax money to help solve the immediate social issues that government struggles with. Instead choose your cause, the community you identify with and feel strongly about and support them in return for social, financial and emotional reward.
Social enterprises are changing New Zealand. You only have to look at the number of hungry bellies that Eat My Lunch have filled over the last year.
Crowdfunding exists to empower the doers of our world. Don’t just commentate on what someone could do to address existing social issues. Take a leaf out of the doers’ book — support them by pledging and empowering them to do.