Beyond social welfare [Archives:2002/47/Business & Economy]

November 18 2002

The Road Ahead
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In this new millennium, winning in business requires innovation. Businesses are continuously looking for new sources of innovation, whether from Research and Development laboratories, feedback from customers or even through unsuspected means such as the social sector.
As a matter of fact, finding inspiration from the social sector is now becoming the trend in business innovation. Businesses view community needs as opportunities to develop new ideas and hence products. Indeed, this would enable businesses to innovate and also help the society solve long-standing problems.
Currently, when businesses want to participate in solving some social problems, they just do through spending money on them or sponsor some events here and there, then walk away. Businesses, in order to effectively solve social problems, must move beyond social welfare to social innovation. Businesses should cooperate with the society in order to produce profitable and sustainable benefits for both sides.
Social Innovation means creating change. Nowadays the society needs more than charity; it needs people and businesses committed to creating change and opportunities for learning and innovation. This means getting deeply involved in non-traditional ways. Only then we can move from social welfare to social innovation.
One of the main problems faced by our society is public education. Our country needs dramatic improvements in public schools and universities. Today’s better-educated children are tomorrow’s knowledge workers. More than providing infrastructure and in-class learning facilities, much more than that is needed to create better tomorrow
Consider creating a forum for facilitating training, information sharing and to allow communication between students and business enterprises. This would create a direct link between students and the corporate world, which would in turn give them an idea about what skills are needed and which are the fast growing industries, also provide new insights about training, job placements and supervision to the students.
Moreover, this could be the groundwork for sharing thoughts about problems they currently face or how they can contribute to the society. For example an industry can convey its need for a type of technical people or problems it faces in distribution. And that shall be discussed. Through the discussion the business may find inspiration for solutions and the people would understand the needs of the industry to grow.
Such forums can even help explore entrepreneurial spirits in the community. With businessmen providing good insights and offering support, they can set up and manage their own businesses, this means providing new job placements. And in turn help the society solve a problem of unemployment. This is one way of how businesses can help in social innovation.
Endnote: There must be a committed relationship between the society and the business in order for both to develop. Such relationships have enormous benefits and solve long-standing problems such as education, guidance and unemployment.