Posted by: Nathaniel | November 16, 2008

Charity Still Matters

cross posted from JustMeans “All Things Reconsidered” blog

At the core of the social entrepreneurship movement is a rejection of the dogma of change-making. Social entrepreneurs recognize problems and attempt to find the best solution available – whether it’s nonprofit, for profit, or based on the barter system. Paraphrasing Mission Measurement’s Jason Saul at last weeks NYU Social Entrepreneurship conference, the social entrepreneur’s only allegiance is to impact.

Unfortunately, sometimes the conversation in the social entrepreneurship becomes a little self-referential and we forget that our “more business-like” approaches are still, at the end of the day, just one approach. Convinced we have the answers, we become trapped in our own dogma.

The lead article in the New York Time’s annual giving session is a dramatic reminder of why no matter how important our sustainable, long term solutions are, short-term relief and charity still matter.

“When the Cupboard is Bare” profiles the dramatic increase in demand for food relief, and the significant shortages at food pantries and soup kitchens around the country. According to the article:

“In the four months since June, demand for food aid has risen 20 percent in areas of the country with the healthiest economies and more than 40 percent in areas with the weakest, leaders of nonprofit food-distribution organizations say.”

More than 35 million people (including over 10 million children) sometimes go hungry. Perhaps most striking of all, “is not only the suddenness [of the new demand] but also the demographic that is seeking help. Most of the newcomers have been employed and have managed to survive dips in the job market. Many of them are couples and single parents who…had managed without handouts.”

Food relief is, in some ways, the antithesis of social entrepreneurship. And in the long run, this issue can only be solved by a more robust, equitable economy supported by a government willing to regulate to protect the common good. But there is an immediate need as well, one that we cannot conscionably let go unmet.

It’s not about hand-ups vs. hand outs or relief vs. social entrepreneurship. It’s a matter of social (in)justice when 35 million people in the richest country on earth can go hungry. Indeed, this is why Paul Farmer implored his fellow social entrepreneurs at last year’s Skoll World Forum to “get on the social justice train.” Charity is still an essential part of the safety net we provide to ensure that our society remains safe and healthy.

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Responses

  1. Great post!

    Giving is essential.


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