July 17, 2017

The dirty secret of social enterprise: Scale is overrated

Even as social businesses obsess about scale and size, it is worth considering if bigger is necessarily better when the goal is social justice, says Jonathan C. Lewis.

2 min read

Unless you’re a fish or a snake, what’s so great about achieving scale? For social entrepreneurs, the task of scaling our social enterprises (or not scaling them) induces heartburn.

Social entrepreneurship calls us in the direction of big, brash, system-disrupting, system-stopping, system-innovating solutions. Without growing our social ventures, without moving our careers up the ladder of professional success, without achieving economies of scale, without becoming big enough to be seen by investors and journalists, without a “scalable model,” are we doing enough? Are we reaching our full potential as changemakers? If our programs are small in size and stature, do you and I matter?

To give the notion of scale its due: We are in an urgent fury to achieve system-wide, broadly reaching social justice. We take it personally that a billion people can’t drink clean water. We take it personally that 29,000 children die every day from poverty. We take it personally that our globe is getting hotter. We take it personally that women are abused or sexually trafficked. That 2.4 billion people don’t have basic sanitation. That wars are the macho solution for government officials who don’t fight or die in them. That, around the world, on this very day, 27 million people are enslaved. The internal moral pressure to do more, get bigger, reach greater numbers and forestall total environmental disaster weighs heavily on our hearts – and in our business plans.

This is an excerpt from the full article, which can be found here.

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NextBillion is a community of business leaders, social entrepreneurs, nonprofit managers, policy makers, academics and others exploring the connection between development and enterprise. It chronicles new trends in market solutions to poverty that benefit the world’s 4 billion low-income producers and consumers – often known as the base of the pyramid. NextBillion’s goal is to stimulate discussion, raise awareness and provide a platform for sharing ideas that improve the lives of the poor and reshape entire economies.