Ron Paul: Social Enterprise

We need to solve the societal problems of today without mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s financial future. True compassion is not simply more government debt, but instead innovation, efficiency, and partnership.

Last year, Americans gave over $400 billion to charityOther countries, like the UK and Canada, gave massive amounts as well. Simply put, people are eager and willing to do good.

It’s the same with regards to businesses. Many people think that earning income is the opposite of charity. However, companies known as “social enterprises” are a case study in how private businesses are making a difference for those in need.

Social enterprises are mission-driven for-profits. They use a business model to produce and sell a product or service, but the mission is to support a particular charitable cause. Unlike traditional charity organizations, which rely on grants or donations as their sole source of income, social enterprises are supported by consumer transactions.

That means that social enterprises have double the incentive to succeed. As a business, they naturally want to expand, hire more people, and produce better products for consumers. As a mission-driven organization, better business means they can put more money into helping more people. Their success is a win for our economy and for people in need.

Social enterprise is a solution welcomed by people of all political stripes, and that unanimity speaks to its power to achieve real impact. They are as diverse and unique in the services they provide as they are in the charities they support.

One contemporary example, ME to WE, provides global service trips and sells products that give charitable impacts, and funds WE Charity. WE Charity helps serve vulnerable populations in the United States and Canada, and provides communities overseas in nine countries with access to healthcare, clean water, and education. ME to WE products each have a unique code enabling purchasers to track exactly where and how their money is spent to have a charitable impact. We need more of this type of transparency in tracking how money is spent on social causes – including by government. A minimum 50 percent of the proceeds from these trips and from other sustainable products ME to WE sells goes directly to WE Charity, while the balance is reinvested to grow the social enterprise.

Social enterprises are growing rapidly because people want to go to work knowing that they’re making a positive impact in the world. In fact, one study found that 94 percent of millennials want to use their skills for good – an encouraging figure going into the future.

Social enterprises give them the chance. Furthermore, they contribute to the economy, create jobs, and enrich the global marketplace with unique and innovative products. And better yet, like any charity, they allow those of us who are more fortunate to give to causes we care about and help people who truly need it.

To solve the persisting issues of our day, it is going to take the continued efforts of caring individuals and private sector companies helping out the less fortunate. As we look towards the future, we should strive to be even more charitable in what we give, and – thanks to social enterprises – what we buy.

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