Social Business or Philanthropy?

Derek Li

The term “Social Business” means different things depending on who you are. And it’s true, there are no boundaries that set apart a business from being “social” or not. But the fundamental message is clear, these are businesses that strive to be a positive force of change than simply a profit maximizing company.

So that sounds like a simple enough idea. Why then, is this idea so current right now? You might think, “that’s cute, but a business is a business after all. How could anyone combine business with development in the same sentence?”

Take Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank as example, Grameen Bank provides pioneering loan services to impoverished villages in Bangladesh whom were previously thought as uncreditworthy. A more recent example would be Kenya’s M-Pesa, mobile-based transfer and microfinancing service, granting proper bank services to Kenyans who cannot afford to open bank accounts. These businesses create brand new opportunities in markets that never existed before, bridging resources to those in need.

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Social entrepreneur Jacqueline Novogratz exemplifies this concept throughout her career. In her book, “The Blue Sweater”, she shows how dysfunctional businesses arise in developing countries simply because they dependent on non-profit donations. During her time in Africa, she encountered an example where women in Rwanda make merely $2 dollars a day in a bakery that loses $2000 per month, but still operates because there is an NGO that is willing to fund it. With the intention to merge development and business together, she started Acumen Fund, a not-for-profit group that believes in a market-orientated investment policy to invest in impact companies.

Philanthropy has revolutionized in unimaginable ways under Acumen Fund. As of today, various funds such as Acumen invest in a range of businesses spanning from agricultural ventures in Pakistan, electricity projects in Northern India, to mosquito nets in Tanzania. Their investment strategy is no charity at all, but in return provide business consultancy for these businesses to succeed. The concept of “impact investment” is no longer foreign, and these pioneers have shown us the future of what development entails.

Not to dismiss philanthropy quite so easily, but more often, opportunities arise from the entrepreneurial spirit within the human race. We live in a society where problems can indeed be solved by innovative solutions; perhaps this is the key to solving inequality around the world.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus – “I’m encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs…Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.”

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Interning at American Express

By Terence Lam

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at American Express. After tirelessly searching for an internship, I realized that CONNECTIONS go a long way. During my time here at Tufts so far, I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to get an internship through the conventional resume drop or application. Most of the time, especially for me, many internship opportunities are obtained through connections or networking; this past summer was no exception to that.

There was and still is no formal internship program at American Express for undergraduate students, so I was extremely fortunate to get this opportunity. A family friend, who knew my father and coincidentally was a Senior VP at AmEx, put me in touch with one of his directors for an internship opportunity. Connections. And I know some of you are sitting there thinking, “Well I don’t have any connections!” Maybe you feel that your parents’ jobs aren’t related to finance at all! While your parents may not necessarily work in finance, everyone has connections. Whether it is your parents, a friend of your parents, the parents of a friend, or even just a friend (how you can connect can go on and on), everyone has connections. You just have to think about who you know and explore.

Perhaps your connection cannot give you a job or internship directly. What should you do then? Well, they can still be very helpful. Someone you know can very easily put you in touch with the right people and are usually open in giving you advice or just sharing information about their work. This is extremely important, especially now, when you are still trying to figure out what line of work you want to get involved in and if a particular field is right for you. In the end, the morale of the story is to not be afraid to explore your connections, ask questions, and make sure you make it a point to network early and often.

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in learning more about various topics relating to economics at Tufts, as well as associated events planned by the Economics Society, sign up for the e-list by emailing tufts.ec.society@gmail.com with your preferred e-mail address and full name.