featuring: Social Business

July 20, 2009 at 12:11 am Leave a comment

I already wrote about the HUB-Berlin on this Blog, but as I want this personal Blog to be about the ideas that drive me, I want to add another important topic: Social Business. And starting with a very basic question: What is this?

I read a good example of Social Business genius Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) in his autobiographical accounts “Banker to the Poor.” To keep it short:

Imagine a bridge that is needed in a very poor, underdeveloped place.  A bridge, that is extremely necessary for the rural population to transport goods and earn a living. How can you run this? Old way: An investor builds it, runs it, makes profits through the toll, wants to make more and more profits. Or the investor brings the money to a different place.

This is the old way. The new way, it’ s Social Business: The ownership of the bridge is given in the hands of the actual population in the form of shares. Micro-credits can make it affordable to poorer people. Money made out of the bridge-tolls will be reinvested; either in similar projects or a higer share-value can be realized and it definitely goes to people that need it.

I wrote: The ownership is given. But who gives it into the hands of people that really need it? A company that is founded by a passionate  person (e.g. Yunus), but also makes sure, that ordinary people can own shares, that need the services of the company and also are willing to contribute to the company in more than a material sense. Investors should have an emotional association, more than the abstract worth of the share.

And here we are in Berlin, in the HUB Berlin. It is a cooperative, run by the self eG, shares are mainly owned by people who are either experienced in projects/initiatives that are not neccessarily Social Business, but new and creative. And these people also want to be sorrounded by people that think about making the world a better place in an entrepreneurial sense or in a private sense (LOHAS –  Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability). This is the difference of sitting with a Notebook in Starbucks and pretending to work.

As it is with the bridge, which seems to be a totally different example: People can invest money and their ideas (look at the HUB’s events on the Blog) and earn later on in a material as well as immaterial sense (There is nothing more worth than seeing positive change in your immediate environment!).

Of course, Social Business also sounds like a marketing idea, and lots of people want a softer definition of Social Business, because some think, it is social enough to employ people. Which is wrong because if people don’t see the sensibleness of their work and their impact, might become alienated (see Marx) or less motivated and productive (see Adam Smith). However, there is still this idea that Social Business is just a new formulation of the old CSR/Corporate Social Responsibility. I organized an event for the self eG in March and here is a report:


Article: Social Business is hot in the HUB

With about 40 participants on the “Social Business” dialogue evening in the HUB, the self eG proved its power to bring together people from various fields. Norbert Kunz and Ralf Weiß introduced the topic “Social Business” with their expertise. With iq-consult, Kunz enables young people to found their own business.

The second speaker, Ralf Weiß from akzente advises large companies on Corporate-Social-Responsibility (CSR). Clear is: it is not clear what Social Business is, and whether there even needs to be a definition. Ralf Weiß presented the example of BASF chemicals working together with Noble-Peace-Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus in a joint venture. He referred to a broad variety of CSR concepts and pointed out that CSR and social business may contribute to a further development of social market economy. Norbert Kunz stated clearly, that a Social Business’ main aim is improving social aspects of society. It is not creating profit from clever and innovative products. “Bill Gates’ Microsoft is not a Social Business, because Software avoids much waste.”

However, Kunz stressed that he cannot coin the term Social Business, but that arbitrariness must be avoided in order to distinguish between charity and CSR: “It’s on Social Businesses to fulfil society’ s needs, whereas demands are fulfilled by the “regular” profit-driven market economy.”

Afterwards, the “Social Business Café” allowed for a dialogue and sharing of the experience of all participants. Hans Jürgen Döring, a new member of the self eG, shared the following on his table group: “The importance of a Social Business definition was stressed, but I think of a seal, maybe also a legal Social Business status for companies in the future”. Julia Homilius from stratum GmbH, a CSR-research and consultancy company, is sure that CSR and Social Business belongs together. In her table group, she brought the topic of a CSR-seal forward, to ensure sustainability. She does not see a clear separation of CSR and Social Business: “The aims are basically the same.”

There are two lines of argumentation: Some see a strict separation from Charity and CSR, others see Social Business as an inbetween solution of Charity and CSR. The self eG looks forward to another dialogue, to bring forward the Social Business idea in society, or as Döring says: “Social Business is not a short termtopic, no trend. There needs to be more dialogue among different groups of society.”


If anyone wants to hear abot the HUB Berlin life, come to Social Bar Hannover on 6 August. I think the Social Bar is also a HUB in its literal sense, because it offers almost no restraints on what you want to present or hear about, and is therefore very good to connect to people with ideas of any kind.

Join here: http://socialbar.de/wiki/Hannover

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Self-censorship… featuring: SocialBar Hannover

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