Living and Giving

Commercial Values for Social Enterprises

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A recent discussion on Social Edge asked the question \”Can Social Enterprises Be Too Commercial?\”  The conversation went on to explore whether certain business standards are simply too corporate for social enterprises.  Here are my thoughts on a few of the standards discussed.

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What we are really talking about here are values and culture. Each person is going to create, and find an environment that works best for them, at least in majority. I\’d say some of the items mentioned are important in any realm, not simply as a social entrepreneur. This is specific and not absolute, so I find this interesting to break down some of the issues involved in each of these values.

1. Being on Time

Being on time is imperative and respectful. You can see my blog posts here under How This CEO Needs To Grow about how I have struggled with this, and yet also maintain a high standard the majority of the time.

Being on time is a value we hold for ourselves. For respecting not only our colleagues, but also family, friends. I\’ve found when you are consistently on time as well, that you find a deeper sense of respect and grounding for oneself, too. I can\’t really see a realm where it isn\’t important.

2. Being Neat

This is a tough one! I love neat offices. It gives me such peace to walk into a neat office. However, people also need to feel as if their workspace can be individual, creative or simply protected as their own. I do think it speaks to the \”state of the mind\” of the organization. It can point to how organized they are in their priorities and clear objectives. Of course, this isn\’t always the case. A purely pristine, logically ordered office might also lack the spontaneity, variety and creativity to pursue innovation.

I\’d say here to do your best to keep it clear, and balance that with team member ownership over their space. However, when you have very, very open workspaces such as at UniversalGiving (we are all open-office format, I have a standup desk right in the middle of some team members and 5 or so interns), perhaps even more important that folders and areas are kept clean.

3. Being Too Commercial

This phrase strikes me as culturally severe. Commercial is all about selling and no heart behind the product. I\’d like to say that we are run with business principles, balanced with a product that affects our communities. We \”adore\” what we \’sell\’! We are in the business of scaling giving and volunteering all over the world. We use business terms. We use heartfelt terms. We mix and balance.

Find what works best for your leadership and team, and the people to whom you best want to recruit. Maintain important principles, and also allow in clearly defined ways, where creativity and free rein exist.

Then enjoy your culture. Keep listening to yourself, to leadership, to the team. Watch how the culture evolves. Measure to see that it is in line with your values. And refine again. Cultural development for your organization is created every moment and requires that attention.

Enjoy the process!