While watching election results a couple weeks ago, I decided to take a peek at what my friends and loved ones were saying on Facebook. There was a strong amount of partisan rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum, and then there was one comment that stood out amongst the rest: "Let's all enjoy these next few hours, when almost everyone we know is excited about the possibilities... before half of the country goes back to being pissed off for the next four years." As a millennial, I read this statement, and my first reaction was to laugh. But then I thought about it more, I thought of the pressing problems that are pleading for our attention, and I couldn't help but wonder how on earth will we ever even begin to address the issues that confound us all?
This is our reality. We live in a nation that grows ever more divided. Perhaps even more important, we're in a political climate where distrust and distaste seem to go hand in hand with what used to just be honest disagreement. It feels as though we're asked to choose, you're either on the side of business, or the side of government, but you can't have it both ways.
But if we're going to change politics as usual, we also need to change business as usual. And when we do these simultaneously, great things happen. Let me explain what I mean.
I work in the private sector for an organization called InVenture. We're a start-up, full of idealism and business acumen and we're guided by a simple philosophy: We can build an organization that can successfully value both people and profit. We do this through mobile technology, using SMS, to empower emerging market entrepreneurs with a simple accounting tool that also leads to the creation of a credit score, enabling our users to access affordable credit previously out of their reach.
We are what's called a B Corp, an organization that uses the power of business to produce public benefit. Imagine that? But here's the thing, we're not alone: If you've ever bought a book from Better World Books, signed a petition on change.org, or purchased Method Hand Soap or laundry detergent, you've interacted with a B Corp and used your money to say you too believe business can and should create public benefit!
Even more exciting is that some government agencies are also upending long held stereotypes about their sector. In October 2010, USAID launched Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through DIV, USAID has been able to partner with and support a growing portfolio of market-based social enterprises that when brought to scale, have the potential to have dramatic impact in communities around the world. DIV has a growing portfolio of innovative social enterprises. They have helped build sustainable sanitation in urban slums through its investment in Sanergy. They have also invested in VisionSpring to make eye care affordable for people in emerging markets. I am happy to say they are now partnering with InVenture, as we work to unlock financial access for all people through simple mobile technology.
These are just a few of the many examples of business and government entities that have made the conscious decision to challenge the status quo. As we work together, we create new public and market value that have the potential to not just change business and politics as usual. Innovative public-private partnerships are also changing lives.