{this is a post from when I was living in Uganda, when Sseko was just a glint in my eye…}

Over the past year, I have spent quite a bit of time (mostly at Kaldi’s, with the occasional, and by occasional I mean daily, break for some Sparky’s Ghiradelli and red wine ice cream) thinking about for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations.

For those of you who haven’t been subjected to hearing me do my shpeal a hundred times, these entities and their relationships to one other and the consumer base is the topic of my thesis I am currently working on (and by working on, I mean thinking about…enter dark looming rain cloud that hangs ominously over me as I hop across continents)

Since there are no Kaldi’s or Sparky’s in Uganda, I continued to ponder solo style until I ran across some like-minded individuals who shared my enthusiasm…for examining these differences, looking at the relationship between these two sectors, and specifically thinking about the way Corporate Social Responsibility fits in to the scheme and can act as a bridge, a Middle Earth (that was for you, Andy) between these two worlds as one possible way of combining and harnessing the strengths of each…

Since the beginning of this journey, there has always been a tension for me. My heart is in the non-profit world. That makes sense to me. I am drawn to the missions, the visions, the passions of the non-profit world. But then there is that pesky brain of mine. And it clicks much more with a business operation model (That is not to say that both don’t play an important and distinct role in society, but more so questioning the stark separation between these two worlds, both structurally and theoretically, and questioning if this separation is always necessary and the most advantageous for all constituents).

Not to mention the fact that American consumers are arguably the most influential and powerful group of people in the entire world. More powerful than any government, dictator, lobbyist or royalty.

A ticket to a Hannah Montana concert recently sold for $2,000 dollars.

Hannah Montana.

Laugh at the absurdity of this…

…and then remind yourself that there are 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.

and that two hours of sub-par musical bliss for a lip-gloss wearing 13 year old was more than 4x the yearly wages for 1.4 billion of our neighbors.

I really believe that in order to change the world (among other things) we have to change the way the world (and specifically America) does business, their consumer habits, and social consciousness. That is why I am so drawn to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. Shifting the paradigm. Taking CSR from being something that a company does to get an edge and a pat on the back, to a survival mechanism. Taking the concept of a socially responsible business from notions of corporate philanthropy, charity, and once-a-year volunteer days, to a concept that infiltrates and dictates every aspect of a business, from planning to manufacturing to advertising to sales.

There is immense power in market demand.

(think Giga Pets)

And if American consumers demand that the companies that keep their lives running, bodies clothed, and bellies full go beyond annual penny wars for a local charity, the beauty of capitalism and competition tells me that their competitors will have no choice but to follow suit.

Next on the agenda: How to create this demand.

Stay tuned…

but I am confident that if …

a couple of guys with a whole lot of pseudo-precious stones on their hands can successfully build a global demand by convincing the world that an arbitrary mineral, I mean, a diamond is in fact the symbol of true love and commitment (and by golly! now the sign of an Independent Woman too!! Raise your right hand ladies!)…

…or that Hasboro can somehow create an outrageous demand for virtual key chain pets that leave little stinky surprises behind if they are not tended to…

i think we can figure it out

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