Social Enterprises and the Single-Responsibility Principle

I recently had the privilege of being a judge for Cruz Cares, which describes itself as “a pitch contest for social change.” Four non-profits and two for-profit companies competed. Each entrant had an idea about how to make the world a better place. The judges were instructed to rate each pitch on the basis of its potential social impact, financial viability, and the likelihood that the project could be successfully implemented.

The winner was unanimously agreed by the five judges to be Rising International, a non-profit that is fighting female poverty by organizing an analog to Tupperware Parties. Instead of selling plasticware, Rising International’s parties feature goods made by women in Afghanistan and other poor countries, and are sold by women in the United States who are themselves in difficult circumstances. Both sets of women make money, and the women in the United States develop skills and connections that help them transition to more traditional employment. It’s a very clever idea, has already attracted over 19,000 foreign artisans, and seems to have the potential to scale.

The second- and third-place companies were also non-profits, despite the fact that both for-profit companies are competently managed, have reasonable business plans, and are led by people with the sincere desire to do good. The experience reinforced one of my long-held beliefs: the only goal of a for-profit company should be to make as much money as possible.

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