Foreign aid as a development tool has been tried and found wanting. Decades of handouts from developed countries to developing countries have done little more than promote corruption among developing country leaders and continue a cycle of dependency.
Social entrepreneurship is a growing phenomenon among business-minded people who want to make a difference for those in poverty. Social entrepreneurship is different from current corporate social responsibility efforts, which involve projects such as building a well while in the process of building a factory in Africa.
For social entrepreneurs, the social good is the end goal rather than an afterthought. Take Nokero as an example. Short for “No Kerosene,” the company was started by inventor Steve Katsaros, who developed a solar-powered light bulb that could provide light for those without access to electricity. Rather than continually looking for grants to produce the bulbs and then handing them out to people who may not recognize their value or may not be the most in need, Katsaros made the bulbs cheaply enough that he can sell them in the developing world. By selling the bulbs, Katsaros can also stay in business as long as people want his bulbs, rather than becoming unable to provide when the grants dry up.
In addition to stimulating development, social entrepreneurship inherently promotes economic freedom. It recognizes that the poor have the ability to determine their greatest needs, and they deserve the respect and freedom to make their own choices about how to meet those needs. Social entrepreneurs are providing these kinds of opportunities in a cost-effective, sustainable way.
[Excerpt of article by Michelle Kaffenberger]