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Social Business... Do it with Joy!

Are you a student who is interested in the idea of social business? Did you catch fire & now think about how toimplement Social Business on your own?

This article will act as an initial guideline for students who are not only interested in Social Business, but want to take action &implement their own initiatives followed by a short review ofcontributions made by North South University (NSU) towards Social Business.

NSU & Social Business:

Social Business as a new age discipline was 1st regarded &recognized by NSU in Bangladesh’s higher education sector. Social Business - which is currently one of the most active research & seminar topics of NSU faculties - was first introduced at the International Conference on Knowledge Globalization 2010 Dhaka. NSU was the proud host of this esteemed Global Conference & the event
was honored by the participation of Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus
as the Key note speaker. During this conference Prof. Yunus introduced the premises of Social Business & this has initiated the Social Business activities in NSU. With the collaboration of Yunus Centre, Grameen Creative Lab, South Asian Youth Society, & Young Economists’ Forum, the University has organized many successful seminars, competitions, paper presentations on Social Business & in 2013, NSU jointly with Professional Society for Social Business (PSSB) has organized the Social Business Forum 2013 (which is the biggest Social Business program in Asia to date) to add another feather in its glorious collection of Social Business Events.

NSU & Professional Society for Social Business (PSSB):

PSSB as a social body is globally recognized &
affiliated. The first pillar of this brilliant social initiation was
built by NSU faculty members. Professor Abdul Hannan Chowdhury (ExDean, NSU School of Business) inspired by Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ ideology & business perspectives, mentored other NSU faculty members to start PSSB under NSU’s premises.

PSSB is envisioned to be an acclaimed association for scholars, experts, practitioners, academicians, consultants & the inquisitive minds who aspire to learn about Social Business. The core objective of the society is to create a platform for professionals, researchers & academicians in the area of Social Business in Bangladesh. Being the first of its kind, PSSB shall propagate the concept & spread the message of Social Businessin order to develop better understanding of the area while accelerating economic development of Bangladesh through Social Business. The PSSB will also undertake projects for promoting economic activities including development of human resources, project evaluation, quality improvement & research work.

Currently PSSB has extended its reach beyond NSU & is recognized as one of the strong global Social Businessorganizational bodies coming from Asia. Upon its inception in May 2012, it has already successfully hosted global events – the Social Business Forum 2012, 2013 & organized a dialogue on Social Business with Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus including 35 university teachers, professionals & academicians at Yunus Centre. It now has more than 1,500 active members. Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus, Astronaut Ronald Garan & many other eminent persons of Bangladesh & abroad have aligned to lend credibility to this platform.

“…The
young generation today is the most powerful of any young generation in
history. They have the capabilities and the technology to overcome any
of the social problems that exist and have not yet been solved. Young
people all around the globe are better connected than ever before. The
power of technology enables access to information of any type, and also
enables communication in even far away, remote places. Moreover, there
is a strong and ever-growing desire of young people to change the world
for the better.

Social
business is a wonderful vehicle for the youth to make this change
happen. Young people can bring in all their creativity and passion to
develop social business ideas that can really make an impact in people’s
lives. Many young people have already started their own social business
initiatives and have come up with beautiful and creative solutions that
we have never thought about before.

You too can become a part of this change and make your contribution towards a better planet.”

-Muhammad Yunus

Sounds great, but as a student, what can you do? The following are practical steps that you can take to become active & engage with social business in your university context.

 

i)

 

Know the background:

 

With
the idea of social business, Prof. Muhammad Yunus has introduced a new
dimension for capitalism: a business model that does not strive to
maximize profits but rather to serve humanity’s most pressing needs.

Thus, the first motive of a social business is not profit, &second, it does not pay its investors dividends. Instead, it aims at solving social problems with products & services at affordable prices, or giving the poor & marginalized people ownership in a business allowing them to share in its profits.

A social business pays sback only its original investment &reinvests
its profits in innovations or further growth that advance its social
goals. Although the social business is pioneering in its aims, it is
traditional in its management. Its workforce is professional & paid according to market wages.

This
type of business may or may not earn profit, but like any other
business it must not incur losses in order to be able to sustain itself.
In every sense the social business is sustainable: in its direct
environmental impact, its impact down the value chain, & critically, in its financial independence.

This is a key difference between social business & charity. Once its initial investment is repaid, the social business aims to be financially self-sustaining, giving it the independence & security to focus its efforts on the long-term improvement of the lives of the disadvantaged.

Thus a social business is a new type of company & “social business entrepreneurs” are a new type of entrepreneurs who are not interested in profit- maximization. They are totally committed to making a difference in the world. They want to give a better chance in life to other people & they want to achieve this objective through creating & supporting sustainable social businesses.

The seven principles of social business:

1.
Business objective will be to overcome poverty, or one or more problems
(such as education, health, technology access and environment) which
threaten people and society; not profit maximization.

2. Financial and economic sustainability.

3. Investors get back their investment amount only. No dividend is given beyond investment money.

4. When investment amount is paid back, company profit stays with the company for expansion and improvement.

5. Environmentally conscious.

6. Workforce gets market wage with better working conditions.

7. …do it with joy.

ii)

 

Spread the Idea:

Every
journey starts with the first steps. To start a social business
movement at your university, it is important to make the concept known
among students as well as professors. Spreading the word about social
business helps you to find other interested people or organizations & might generate some new ideas or opportunities for collaborations.

Start
the conversation about social business with other like-minded students
in your community. Set up regular open meetings inviting everyone who is
interested & exchange ideas on how to bring
social business to your university. Post your meetings on social media,
bulletin boards, etc. to draw attention to your activities.

Also,
you could run promotional activities through social media channels in
order to make people aware of the idea. Create a page for social
business on the common social media channels & post news, activities &
outcomes of meetings with like-minded students. Sharing the latest
social business news with your friends through these social media
channels is also a good idea.

To get some firsthand experience, more attention, & credibility, you may ask social business professionals to speak at students’events
or at other events planned at your university. The event should have at
least some distant relation to the field to increase the chance of
reaching participants that are interested in the concept.

Another
way of introducing social business to your university could be to write
your bachelor or master thesis about social business.

Last but not least, every university has them: clubs, societies or groups in which students engage them in discussions about their ideas. So why not found a social business students club?

 

iii)

 

Organize with Joy:

You can organize a conference for instance. To organize a conference you first need an idea & possible topics. Social business is a central topic for a range of events,
so you should focus on a concrete outline of your conference. Otherwise
it may become difficult to get speakers, sponsors, or the necessary
participants as there are too many similar events. Bear in mind that you
have strong competitors and you have to figure out how to differentiate
your event.

You
need a guiding idea, central theme, or “golden thread” running through
the diverse slots of your event. It could be that your target group is a
special one: a location in a country where no social business event has
taken place before, a conference specifically for students, a
specialized scientific conference, or apractitioner’s
event. Your event could be focused either on a special field like
healthcare, ageing, integration, nutrition or on a special agenda like
social business joint ventures, social business start ups, social
business in developing countries, etc. Or maybe the format &
design of the conference makes it unique. For example, the event could
be a huge online gathering or be connected to important political
events. You have to ask yourself: How different is my event from others & why should people invest time & resources to join it?

Now
that you have an idea you need a team with a strong desire to organize
the conference. This can be crucial, especially in the last weeks before
the event when you will all be very busy with the recruiting of the
last participants, preparing the location, organizing details, answering
questions of speakers and participants etc. You should look for team members with diverse skills to delegate tasks in a sensible way, acknowledging the strengths of each one of them. A very eloquent & convincing person is perfect for being in charge of inspiring prominent speakers &attracting sponsors. Another person with good organizational talent should support you in conceptualizing &guiding the overall process. In a later stage of organization you should also think of persons who will be in charge of technical support & logistics.

 

iv)

 

Lobby for Social Business:

Different
from the suggestions made in the “Spread the idea” section you now are
in a good position to influence your university’s politics regarding
social business in a positive way. Having organized a conference, a workshop &/or an idea competition, you have a network, & maybe valuable contacts to the industry, within the university or to other universities, &public authorities. This community strengthens your credibility &
will support your future actions. Now you have diverse opportunities to
bring social business to the next level. You can support your
university in gaining reputation in the field. That can happen through
an important regular event, such as an annual large-scale social
business conference, through establishing a curriculum incorporating
social business or developing a social business master or MBA. Social
business should not be missing from any university’s teaching portfolio,
so if it is not yet taught at your university go talk to the relevant
Management, Economics, Public Policy (or from another related field)
Professor and lobby them to teach about social business.

You can represent the students’ voice & actively bring in their priorities to provoke change in your university’s agenda. You can always argue that there is an ethical, ecological & social demand for social business becoming a part of academic teaching. Apart from that, students want to learn about social business. More & more social business university activities are shaping up globally & the students’ interest &
engagement is an important part of this movement. Other arguments you
can put forward are that social business is a growing business sector
whose relevance for all businesses will increase significantly in the
near future. And educating social business is a great way toteach about entrepreneurship & business challenges in a new & innovative framework & to bring in a different mindset.

 

v)

 

Do It!

One of the most advanced ways to get involved is to simply start your own social business to tackle a social problem. In addition, getting active &
starting your own social business is the best way to approach social
issues in your community. First steps in setting up a social business
are to understand the causes for social injustice in your environment & develop a change model: Ask questions & listen to people in your area to identify concrete social problems. Be aware &
open to talk to people with biographical, cultural, social backgrounds
different from your own. Now become concrete about what you want to
achieve.

Brainstorm
with others about possible entrepreneurial solutions for the social
problems you identified. What you need is a very good idea, just think
of all the mediocre or bad ideas that waste money & lead to disappointment for you & all your partners. Therefore, you & persons familiar with the field in which you want to get started should really believe in your idea & youshould
have an answer to every “but…” comment. Otherwise it might be that you
did not yet develop them very well. Make use of the feedback you receive, re-conceptualize & improve your idea. Also think about ways to visualize your idea with facts &figures so that your audience easily grasps your aims. As soon asyou have your brilliant idea & a convincing concept, beprepared for the challenges & constraints you will face in the next months & years. Ups & downs are a normal part of a start up period. Innovation often means breaking down barriers that resist change.

What
you also need are business acumen, a solid business plan that builds on
a smart and sustainable approach, and funding! For funding and coaching
submit proposals to business plan competitions and social business
incubators or social venture investors. If such conceptualizations have
not been part of your studies, take a class and read books about how to
design a business model and write a business plan. Calculate how much
budget you need to start your social business & let professionals re-check the final calculations & the business plan. Think of which legal form is best to implement your idea.

The business plan is an important document that you will need to find partners, convince investors, to justify your approach &to
be completely aware of what you are up to. An investor can be a
company, a private person, but also organizations like Ashoka or the
Schwab Foundation that regularly support social business entrepreneurs.
Also think of other stakeholders in the field, how are you going to deal
with established organizations, governments &
other people that are affected by or interested in your project. They
might become important proponents of your project and, if not, you
should at least have a clear strategy of how to react on their actions.

Lastly, don’t do it alone, find persons you know & you can trust who become your partners. Find mentors like other social business entrepreneurs for advice. Join conferences & connect yourself with other entrepreneurs &
potential supporters of your idea. Contacts are already of value if
they start talking about your project with a third person or mention
your social business in a speech or workshop. Along with the promotion
of the idea, you should already start implementing it. Depending on the
social business design, you may start your approach with a couple families, one kindergarten etc. &
then scale it to a higher level as soon as you have attracted an
investor. Now, by the latest, you managed to transform your idea into
reality.

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