Social Vs Enterprise


What should be the primary motive of a Social Enterprise – Maximizing social impact or ensuring enterprise sustainability or both? The debate is still on but I do sense this growing tendency amongst many of us (including me) to be more concerned with enterprise sustainability. We believe that if the enterprise is made sustainable, then it’s ability to create social impact automatically goes up. Nothing wrong with that, but shouldn’t we also be thinking of the of the “social” side of the enterprise?

The other day David Kuria, the founder CEO of Ecotact, walked into office and said, “Suraj! We need to do a demographic based study to understand people’s behaviour around accessing a toilet. We need to ensure that everybody can access a Ikotoilet!” (the pay-per-use toilet facilities built by Ecotact are branded as “Ikotoilet”)

My immediate thoughts – “We are already building toilets and maintaining them. We are already providing access to all. Why do we need to do a study? What more could we do? We have so many more toilets to build, so many systems and processes to put in place as we scale up and grow the Ikotoilet presence in other parts of Kenya.  More importantly should we be spending our already stretched out resources on doing a study? That too now?”

David continued – “For hygienic reasons all our Ikotoilet facilities have asian-style toilets but are asian style toilets comfortable for old people, pregnant women or for people with joint pains who find it difficult to squat?”

Very valid question which had honestly never crossed my mind.  While, my thinking continued to be around – do old people, pregnant women and people with joint pain constitute a large enough population to justify re-design of our toilets, David’s thinking was totally committed to improving access to toilets for everbody. I could sense my initial thoughts and questions melting and a sense of awe taking over in my head as I saw David deeply thinking of the “social” side of the enterprise.

(Kindly note that every Ikotoilet facility already has provisions for the disabled)

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One Response to “Social Vs Enterprise”

  1. BC Says:

    Hi Suraj, I am an aspiring social entrepreneur and I am keen to find out more about the Acumen Fund Fellowship. How can I get in touch with you?

    Thanks for your help!

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