Alternative Thinking of Social Entrepreneurship Business in Bangladesh -The Asian Age

Mahiul Kadir

Nowadays almost everyone thinks NGO and social entrepreneurship are the same and a new concept of NGO. In my sense, NGO and social enterprises will coexist and have a distinct role in both of them.

Social entrepren-eurship combines a market orientation with a social purpose, generating both financial and social revenues. To me this is doing well by doing good. On the other hand, NGO is focused on doing good and depends on external funding. Facing the ground reality, many NGOs are diversifying their income sources to ensure their sustainability.

Social entrepreneurship concept is an innovative way of civil society engagement in recent times. The term was revealed in the 1970s to interlink with civil society, government and private sector. For civil society, the concept has come up with a new stream of activity that aligns the objectives of a systematic social change and individuals would be empowered as a change-maker. The government, particularly in Bangladesh can take the approach marketising their social welfare programs without proposing a fully-fledged privatization of the state. In the private sector, the concept is really helpful to create the poor customer access. The organisation can use their CSR fund to establish the approach.

Social enterprise established by the entrepreneur is a hybrid organisation. The business creates wealth that is not followed by the regular business process; distribute the wealth to the stakeholders who are vulnerable in the community. In short, the business engages the poor people not only in a transactional way - but also in a transformational way to help them become actors in their own development.

There are a number of challenges that lie in the establishment of a social business, foremost the challenge is access to finance. Most banks require collateral but the enterprise would not be able to give the documents because it is a micro-enterprise. Another challenge is to create the market. Some of us still thinking it is an anti-social enterprise or some choose to give only lukewarm support.

We all agree that the business is a different animal and to flourish the business needs deep understanding and support differently. If the business is successful, the first thing is around the people who need to reframe their thinking and appreciation to the role of the enterprise that aims to grow social equity.

I can give an example of seasonal mango farmers becoming not only producers of sweet mango but also processors and sellers of their own orchard fruits. In this way, the farmers get more share of the value of their product, which, in the long term, could help them get out of poverty.

But, the question is who will come forward to create an enabling environment for social business development? First response should come from the government who can play a developmental role and help to recognise and scale up the impact of social enterprises.

In Bangladesh, what we see is that the government already realized the issue and is trying to change the entrepreneurial mindset of the youth. The government already allocated some budget that is patronizing the entrepreneurship journey and thanks to the ICT ministry working a good job.   

Mahiul Kadir is the Executive Director of Hope for the Poorest, a NGO
working on entrepreneurship social
business in Bangladesh.