Is Social Enterprise a Rebranding of the Development Sector?


Given that I come from traditional development: Peace Corps, INGO, universities etc, it’s a question that I have thought of often and definitely more recently. Most specifically at the “Emerging Markets” Conference hosted by the Monitor Group a couple of weeks ago. There I met Markus, a German, setting up a social enterprise incubator in the Philippines.

He was a former IT business owner who had decided to switch gears to the social sector through a Masters program. He commented how mindsets were so dissimilar between a development school versus a business school, yet both brought value to the table if a middle ground could be found.

We had just listened to a panel on agriculture development that, to be frank, was a bit outdated and didn’t actually cover the innovation that is happening in the field. In discussing this with him, we both stated that so much has already been learned in the traditional development sector on many of these same topics, yet it seems to be disregarded.

Somewhere along the way there is a renaming, a re-categorizing and a realigning as if the sector was dealing with brand new issues. With so many people, with diverse backgrounds and skills entering this sector, trying to solve challenges, it is important to remember what has been determined already in traditional development.

For example, those designing products for Small Holder Farmers, can review the lessons learned by development organizations in marketing & selling treadle pumps. I encourage all new entrants to access internet resources, such as Rural Finance Learning Center, Eldis or CGAP, sites that track development policy, practice and research.

To make this social enterprise sector work the lessons learned from both traditional development and business need to be combined.

Is social enterprise a re-branding of the development sector? What do you think?


One Response to “Is Social Enterprise a Rebranding of the Development Sector?”

  1. TZiPi Radonsky Says:

    I do not know enough to answer, yet I am glad you asked the question, Sophie! I have so much to learn!

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