Home > Organizations > The Social Corporation: Nobel Novelty or Non-Profit Novation?

The Social Corporation: Nobel Novelty or Non-Profit Novation?

17-Mar-08 12:43 am EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

While cheerfully coding away this afternoon (delving into the intricacies of Commerce Server 2007‘s Staging subsystem), I had the television on in the background again monitoring the world through the lens of CBC Newsworld when on came Muhammad Yumus, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who brought forth his concept of "Social Business".  Perhaps Mr. Yumus is a better writer and academic than a presenter, because from the dialogue in the short piece on Newsworld, I couldn’t readily distinguish the difference between his concept and an existing institution (that’s been around for quite a while): the non-profit corporation.

So, curious to find the answer to my question, "what is the difference?", I tried to find other sources of information through Google that could provide an answer.  And, good ‘ol Google, jackpot!  A nice, new-age, granola-crunching, health-oriented cycling website provided some meaningful analysis:

"Social business departs from the current for-profit structure that places profits above social needs. It also departs from the non-profit structure because leaders improve products, inventory turns and marketing instead of leaning on fundraising."

One Street Newsletter, February 2008.

To learn all about Yumus’ ideas, one would have to read his book "Creating a World Without Poverty" and, to be fair, I haven’t yet had the chance.  However, while Yumus has aptly characterized the merits and basic strength of the structures that support capitalism, I’m concerned that simply mirroring those structures isn’t going to offer much additional success for non-profit endeavours.  If his basic thesis is that non-profit organizations are merely institutions that generate fundraising drives for one cause or another because they aren’t organized with the same operational structures as their for-profit counterparts – I think he may have actually overlooked the basic forces that are responsible for the success of capitalism: starting with greed.

By creating artifacts like stock markets and other such metrics to replace currency in this model (he suggests a number of alternatives), there is no guarantee that anyone will be any more interested in achieving charitable ends.  But, even so, the idea is fresh and interesting.  Hopefully, these new ideas aren’t pillaged by hype peddlers on the Internet or elsewhere to serve distinctly non-charitable ends.

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Terry Glavin

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