At Social Earth, our intent behind running a web blog that highlights social enterprise and humanitarian good is for our readers to experience the epiphany: “other people are doing it, I can too”. Unfortunately, in specializes our content, we also run the risk of readers making the realization: “other people are doing it, so I don’t have too” and this frequently puts me in agitation.
Rod Schwartz, CEO of the online marketplace for social enterprise and investment, ClearlySo, recently sounded off with similar sentiments on his Social Edge blog in a post titled, “Is a ‘Social Economy’ Really Possible?” He expresses his concern that although the hype and attention for the social enterprise movement is readily available, action remains lackadaisical. People assume that everyone else is doing all of the work.
“On the investment side, despite all the talk, the flow of funds is just a trickle,” he says and later goes on to ask, “Despite all the hype and charisma [for social enterprise], where are the big success stories – the social equivalents of Google and Facebook?” Schwartz admits he might be asking too soon, but as he himself mentions – the sprawling Mondragon Cooperative (located in my current home base of the Basque Country, Spain) began in 1956 – it is never too soon to ask.
I sense a palpable disillusionment in what Schwartz has to say and it is hard for me to relate, but then again, I live in a bubble. I work with a team of visionary Social Earth writers and employees spread across the States and I also live right down the road from Mondragon. I shop at Eroski, the supermarket that supports the cooperative and I can’t walk more than a mile without running into someone who knows someone who works for Mondragon and loves it. (Still working on securing that interview, espere mis amigas.) A social economy exists in my own backyard and I believe it can and will be translated to other parts of the world. Just take a look at our website.
But I will stop short from saying “it’s only a matter of time.” We’ve already had all the time in the world. It’s really only a matter of YOU. Take individual responsibility for your morals. Schwartz talks about a student who mentions the enticement of working for an investment bank in order to “clear her debts” instead of jumping into social enterprise and how he was torn over how to advise her.
Her question reminds me of a quote we are repeatedly given in our youth by our parents and elders: “Seize the day! If you don’t do what you want to do now, you might never get the chance.” If you put off your social activism until you’re older and settled down, it will be like visiting the Grand Canyon, but being too old to make the hike-in. Don’t risk it. Go bungee-jumping and for god sake’s, put your money in social investment.
My message to all Social Earth readers is this: our web blog is here more to inspire, than to relieve. You can feel joy in knowing that people are working hard to construct a more sustainable economy, but I also want you to feel guilty if you’re not involved in some concrete way. And if like Schwartz, you occasionally find yourself frustrated or in a rut, remember there’s always a sofa for you to crash at my flat and we can soak up the goodness that is Mondragon. No, seriously, I mean it: Couchsurfing.org, baby.
Oh…and P.S. a little inspirational music!