CSR done right (3/3) – social entrepreneurship & making unusual combinations

Connect the unconnected

Many organisations are aware of the importance of giving back to society. Unfortunately, this rarely results in exciting actions.

Acting responsibly is great, but you’re missing out on wonderful opportunities if you don’t do so creatively. Everybody can donate to a good cause. While admirable, this will not set you apart. Frankly, it’s even a bit boring.

The possibilities of creative CSR and unusual types of social entrepreneurship are endless. You can use your marketing budget to solve social problems, you can use your specific expertise to creatively collect money for a worthy cause and you can even change the way you look at waste products!

Companies can help solve social problems in any number of ways. You can find creative ideas by combining ideas, products or materials. Yet sometimes the most powerful way to find an elegant solution, is by combining different groups of people.

The CNA English school in Brazil was looking for a way to improve its language course. For their students to learn to speak English fluently, actual conversations with native speakers were desirable. Instead of hiring young English-speaking travellers to converse with the students, however, the school decided to get help from senior citizens living in retirement communities in the US.

Many elderly people are longing for some human contact. They are more than willing to talk to youngsters from abroad and are well equipped to give some friendly feedback while they do it. Connecting students and seniors over the internet, CNA created a wonderful win-win situation. The elderly now had someone to talk to, while the students could practise their English!

Of course, existing organisations are certainly not the only ones who are able to make a difference. Imagine you’re an ambitious entrepreneur. You’re on the lookout for a new business opportunity, and you notice a heart-breaking social issue. What do you do?

If you’re anything like Sofie Brouwer you jump to the challenge. Any problem is, of course, a business opportunity. And wouldn’t it be great to contribute to a better society by addressing a problem, while at the same time running a healthy business?

Prior to starting Oopoeh, Sofie Brouwer noticed two groups of people who could use each other’s help. She realised that there are many elderly longing for the loving companionship of a pet. At the same time, many pet-owners are looking for someone who can take care of their beloved pets while they are away from home.

Brouwer cleverly connected the two groups with Oopoeh. The Foundation encourages seniors to look after pets in their neighbourhood. This way Oopoeh aims to help:
• seniors find both company and exercise,
• pet owners find a trustworthy caretaker,
• pets get the proper care and attention.

A great example of social entrepreneurship.

And what to think of Granny’s Finest? A Dutch initiative that combines the knitting expertise of elderly ladies and the creative talent of young designers.

This match made in heaven tackles several common social issues in the Netherlands. In a country where more than one-third of the elderly (65+) population is lonely, group knitting sessions are a welcomed activity. At the same time young designers, models, photographers, make-up artists and stylists build up a portfolio and will be more likely to find work in the future. Granny’s Finest connects young and old to battle loneliness and youth unemployment with durable fashion.

It doesn’t matter whether you already run a profitable business or are looking for a new gap in the market. Just ask yourself ‘who can I bring together to create a better future?

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Flickr Creative Commons Image via -=RoBeE=-.

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