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'We're all in this together'

SOCIAL IMPACT: Entrepreneurs can help tackle community problems as well as make a profit

SOME time ago, I read an interesting article by Richard Straub of the Drucker Society and formally of IBM.

A section of the article read: “What does it take to cause something big about a community to change — something that no one individually has much power over, even something as big as a prevailing mindset?

“We know what it takes: a social movement. And social movements aren’t only the domain of community organisers and college students. Business people can set them in motion, too, as we are seeing right now.”

What Straub said was not new thinking to me – it is a belief that comes as naturally as breathing.

I have seen others with the same belief within and external to the Caribbean community at home and abroad; and I admire them for it. However, during the past few weeks I have been asked questions which made it clear that many in our community still believe that such initiatives are the purview of government, NGOs, or donor agencies.

It is high time that we realise that business people, Caribbean entrepreneurs in particular, have a role to play in creating social change.

Larger businesses in the community also have a role to play in benefitting from, while supporting the growth of smaller businesses.

Smaller businesses have a role to play in providing cost-effective and relevant solutions that will help bigger businesses with their overall objectives for growth and disruption. It means, therefore, that those groups should be holding serious conversations during strategy development and adjustment.

I remember years ago serving as marketing manager for an industrial equipment sales and manufacturing entity, that suffered regular break-ins at its warehouse (the warehouse was located at the border of an inner-city community).

When I suggested to the owner and CEO that we establish a corporate social responsibility programme and engage in dialogue with the community as well as help their students, he did not hesitate. Needless to say, the break-ins ceased — at least for as long as I was there.

The Caribbean diaspora (and the African diaspora in all its ethnic diversity) must waste no opportunity to create initiatives like these and contribute to the freedom and independence of our community.

This means that business leaders and others come together to lead the change we want to see. That means we must engage in strong, persistent actions and create more opportunities to help others in our community.

I do not propose alienation from other groups in society. I am speaking about moving to fix our big problems in society and positioning for a different future.

Like the Kauffman Foundation (one of the largest private foundations in the US, that is also known for supporting entrepreneurs and the Global Entrepreneurs Network), I recognise the need to create the enabling environment, founded on collaboration, trust, connected networks, and evidence-based decision-making if we are to succeed in growing Caribbean entrepreneurial experience and high impact businesses.

We need to take steps for creating markets within our community; sources of funding, skills exchange, and shared networks within the Caribbean Diaspora globally. Our wealth, our growth, and our change lie within our community. Let us act for individual, business, community, and home country success as well as for the success of multiculturalism or assimilation in the host countries where we reside.

Our community and businesses must wake up, expect, and accept the role of businesses and business people to set change in motion.

Meegan Scott is a Jamaica-born strategic management consultant based in Toronto.

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