Posted by: Nathaniel | July 7, 2008

Boston beer, small business philanthropy and the era of trust

Sam Adams

There was a cool article in the Boston Globe about a week ago about a partnership between Boston Beer Co (brewers of Sam Adams) and Accion USA to set up a nonprofit loan fund that helped small business owners with grants of between $2,000 and $20,000. The fund also provides entrepreneurs with consultation and mentorship with successful local and national business owners.

And while its great to see businesses I like (Sam Adams White mm mm) doing good things for the communities in which they operate, the thing I liked best about the program is that it’s based on a fundamental trust in people. Here’s the key line:

“What we try to do is look beyond the credit score and the assets you have that can be seized if you default,” [Accion senior VP] Parsons said. “We want to look at who you are and what your idea is.”

This isn’t revolutionary, but it is part of a school of thought that recognizes that people are greater than the sum of the numbers we can associate with them. It’s an affirmation of trust in the sense that who you are and what your idea is can reflect upon your capacity and potential as much as your credit history.

One of the things I love about the social web2.0 world is its foundation in trust. I remember once reading an interview with Jeff Skoll, one of the co-founders of eBay and founder of the Skoll Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, where he said something to the effect of eBay was built around the idea that people are basically good and trustworthy. Indeed, that’s the only way eBay, Craigslist, and all the other online marketplaces where average individuals exchange their assets and ideas can work.

Trust is certainly a fundamental currency in the world of social change, whether its trusting that the dollars you donate will end up where they’re intended or that local people have the ideas, capacity and wherewithall to lead in their own development, the whole show only works if its built on a foundation of trust. That’s probably why it hurts extra to be burned.

Anyone out there have a good story of trust affirmed or lost and how its impacted your approach to creating change?


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