Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Social enterprise" in a rut

The Financial Times can't even tell us how to define social enterprise. Last week's article, When the good struggle to be great just recycles what seems like the edge of the discussion - Interesting idea, hard to define and isn't is good people are being entrepreneurial. I personally think this confusion between social enterprise and social entrepreneur, re-told in the article, is unhelpful. One is a legal structure, the other is a person who may or may not work for a legal structure called a social enterprise. As much as I admire their ideals, Ashoka is only loosely related to social enterprise.

It would be nice to hear new ideas about how the concept of Community Interest Companies has progressed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Clear cutting, carbon confusion

I continue to venture into the world of "sustainable development" and all that it entails. World Business Council for Sustainable Development has some good stuff on their different rss feeds. But...

Today I learned that while some tell me that bio fuels are good (which I sometimes promote, clearly without doing all my homework), the experience of Brazil raises questions about their potential negative environmental consequences. And...

Soy, the main raw material for biodiesel in Brazil, due to its massive current production, "has already become one of the principal factors behind deforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado, a biome of savannahs and scrub forests that covers the extensive central area of Brazil," said the expert.

All this confirmed by another article, where the World Bank is telling us that the main driver of deforestation is the consumption of cheap beef, soya, lumber and other products by the rich countries of the North.

Hold the tofu.

Oh yeah, that article tells me the answer to all these problems is..."a carbon-trading forest conservation network," which is confirmed by another article claiming that global forests are disappearing for a pittance and Kyoto is the answer.

Clearly I am not getting too many answers from my exploration of this website. Let's ask the academic in my house...

Alberto says, "the important things to remember are environmental narratives and social constructivism, which teach us that it's not about what these articles say, but who is talking and why." He's clearly smart, but as a professionally and personally interested person, today I can understand why some people just can't be bothered.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

'You Internalize It in Your Gut'

Huge congratulations to Millie Ravenel, director of University of North Carolina's Center for International Understanding, and her colleagues for re-prooving one of the most underutilized tools of social change: socializing! Travel to listen, learn and try to see things from the other side.

There are two great pieces featured on National Public Radio on the way Americans on both sides of the immigration debate had transformative experiences when they took a week-long trip to Mexico to better understand why people actually immigrate to the US.

I think this process has profound potential. It always has. As a former Peace Corps volunteer from Russia who grew up in the 80s under the nuclear-armed thumbs of Reagan and Gorbachev, I too had some serious "aha" moments when I met my peers from the "evil empire."

Taking it one step further, how about a study tour to Egypt, Saudi Arabia or even Iran for Americans? Every Westerner I know who's been there says they felt Iran was one of the friendliest countries they have ever visited. Why not?!?!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diamond CSR, or not...

NPR's piece on the up coming movie "Blood Diamond" reminded me of a recent website created by the diamond industry, Diamond Facts. I admit it is poorly named, particularly since the "facts" are "sourced from" the likes of De Beers Group and the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Why don't they attribute a fact to its direct source?

What I appreciate about the Diamond Facts website is that it does help people understand some of the issues at stake. It doesn't mean consumers should be any less vigilant and I certainly question some of their sourced facts from the diamond industry. But at least one can learn about the Kimberly process. I do think the companies are in a tough spot as they working in extremely difficult political environments.

But why didn't Diamond Facts have a link to Global Witness?

Read this gripping story on Diamonds, children and witchcraft and if you think Diamond Facts might need a slight change in it's presentation. Also another BBC story from the Central African Republic.