Economic Development. What a complicated, large, catch-all phrase. It’s what we want for the developing world, but do we know how to get it? How can one harness the economy and bring it down to size, using it as a means for growth, rather than being a pawn in its scheme? The only answer, creatively.
I won’t bore you with a lecture on economics, let’s make it real, applicable, attainable. Economics is a force outside of us, but smart business people use it to their advantage daily. What if we did the same? You don’t have to be a business buff, you simply have to see the value of business methods. What if we used these same business methods toward a different bottom line? Rather than an end-goal of business growth and profit, what if used those same methods with end-goals of community growth and social justice for those without? We can.
I declared a major in Social Entrepreneurship, then I spent my entire first year in school trying to nail down what it means. Here’s what I’ve learned.
It’s a creative approach to solutions- taking business practices and methods and applying them in a non-traditional setting, to bring about social justice for a people group, for a cause, for a purpose. It’s the passion of a social mission which drives the business, a greater aim for the company or organization. To funnel resources into a sustainable business whose underlying goal is more important than the profit and return (though these are still important), a goal for impact, for change in a social sector. Now, as the Social Enterprise Manager for Mission Lazarus, I see the immense value of this proposition. I have seen the impact this business model has on communities in the developing world, so daily, I fight to push this organization forward, towards growth, because here, business growth means growth of impact for God’s Kingdom.
How does it really work?
Well, just like any other business, but the mindset is different. The focus is systemic change, long-term impact. A social entrepreneur sees a person in need and doesn’t simply handover pocket change for their next meal. A social entrepreneur creatively uses resources at hand toward impact that breaks the cycle. It's that same philosophy of education: if you give a hungry man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
Let’s say they create an opportunity for work which leads to consistent pay over a long period of time. This means there will be food on the table, and when that food is purchased at the market, the family who owns the market is impacted, and every person who works at the market is impacted. That’s an economic impact on the local community. This means their kids are in school instead of leaving school to work to earn more money to support the family, which means the next generation has access to education, which means a future filled with brilliant minds to continue lifting the community and driving the local economy. That’s an economic impact directly on that family, and who knows how many others that family might impact along the way!
Mission Lazarus, through a social enterprise model, has impacted 200+ families which now earn a livable wage. That’s 200+ families lifted out of the cycle of poverty, that’s 200+ families with food on the table, spending their wages and stirring their local economy, educating their children, and growing their future opportunities. That is impact, that is change in the social sector.
That’s great! But I live so far away… What can I do to help?
You might be closer than you realize! Every day you can impact others around the world from the comfort of your couch, at your favorite retailers, at the grocery store. Each time you purchase a product, that sale generates a demand for that good. Ready for your economics lesson for the day?
Let’s say you buy 6 avocados from Mexico. That’s 6 avocados taken off the market, that’s a decrease in the quantity left- when supply goes down, if demand stays the same, the prices will increase. If the avocado company earns more money, that means they can buy more land to plant more avocado trees, which means they will hire more workers, which means more people are employed, which means more people earning money, which means more people spending money at their local grocery store. The moral of the story is not to buy more avocados, although 10/10 recommend avocados. Your purchase impacts a community of farmers in another country. The lesson here: what you buy MATTERS. So, make sure it’s the right kind of impact, one towards economic development, toward economic empowerment and prosperity of others.
When you purchase leather goods from our Social Enterprise Store, you are generating a demand for the products made by our artisans in Honduras and Haiti, you are providing opportunity for work and education through our vocational schools. The more we sell, the greater the demand for their craft, the more work for the artisans, the better earning opportunity for their families. Yes, it’s business, but it's more than that- it’s change, it’s impact, it’s for God’s glory and His Kingdom.