Funding Dilemma

Here’s a serious question for the social entrepreneurs out there:

Say there’s a company, let’s call them XYZ. XYZ makes billions of dollars each year following business policies that have crippling effects on peoples’ lives and the environment. They are a major cog in the wheel that perpetuates the problems social entrepreneurs are trying to fix.

As part of XYZ’s corporate social responsibility program (which is 0.1% of their annual budget), they create a competition to seed companies trying to make the world a better place. Thousands of organizations enter, and you are encouraged to do the same, as winning the funding would be a significant boost to your bootstrapped concept.

At the same time, you are in the process of publishing a public document based on extensive research, which describes the main problem at its core to gain awareness and support around your solution.

The pink elephant in the room: You discover that company XYZ is one of the main organizations creating this problem. You can clearly see that allotting 0.1% of their budget towards a solution and 99.9% towards their business practices that actually cause the problem means it’s nothing more than a smokescreen. You can tell that this PR move is potentially extremely harmful for society. Its objective is only to portray XYZ in a positive light to the general public, for the sole purpose of quieting critics and ramping up business to perpetuate these unscrupulous business practices on an even larger scale.

In this scenario, promoting this company’s social good competition and silencing your criticisms of them in hopes of winning the money is actually creating more harm than good for the cause you have poured your heart and soul into. On the other hand, by speaking up, you will likely continue to be underfunded at the critical growing phase of your organization.

This is a major conflict of interest, and this is not hypothetical. Look around. It’s very real in our industry right now. Funding one’s startup is important. Doing what is necessary to alleviate suffering from our causes is more important.

The question: If we really do want to get to the bottom of it all, if we really want to help people and create a better world, why isn’t every SocEnt blog, conference, and social good startup making this a key topic of conversation?


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