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Social Entrepreneurialism: How Your Band-Aid Solution Can Change the World

3p Contributor | Wednesday May 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments

By Olivia Khalili, founder, Cause Capitalism

Ten-to-one if you’re reading this, you are an entrepreneur or intrapreneur who cares about making the world better. Whether you have a history-shifting concept, fledgling idea, or just a desire is often times irrelevant. We have a fascination with systemic solutions because they impress us in their genius, scale, and impact. But not every solution has to (or should!) be systemic.

As entrepreneurs, writers, and citizens we’re geared to feel reluctant about offering up a band-aid solution because it assuages rather than eliminates the problem we’re targeting. But band-aid solutions are absolutely necessary to chip away at the grander problems and lead us, as creators, to grander solutions.

When TerraPass launched with the idea that people would voluntarily (and without public reward) buy credits to offset their carbon production, it was a brave and strange concept. “Offsets” weren’t even part of the common vernacular. Although TerraPass invests in wind energy and methane digestion, the idea of paying to neutralize your pollution was very much a band-aid solution.  Today people talk about carbon widely, and TerraPass is one of the few responsible for firing up this conversation and moving us closer to more ambitious solutions.

RecycleBank is another company whose mission is not to eradicate the problem (packaging, consumption, resource depletion) but to empower people to make personal changes that benefit the environment. Their approach is to incentivize individuals to recycle by giving them retail credit based on how much they recycle.

So don’t wait until you’ve cooked up the equivalent to Muhammad Yunus’ microfinance system. Start now and start tiny. It might feel uncomfortable, but your next idea will be better and you’ll be stronger at executing it. And in the period from small idea to paradigm shifter, you may have saved a marsh from landfill use or spurred a 20% growth in wind energy.

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Olivia is the founder of CauseCapitalism.com. She works with companies to grow their businesses by implementing a social mission. Prior to Cause Capitalism, she built Intent.com’s advertising and content networks. Before getting hooked in the start-up world, Olivia helped Los Angeles nonprofits built capacity, gain funding and strengthen their boards of directors. She worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on international trade advocacy before moving to the Marshall Islands for a year to work for the Ministry of Education and write about international development. Olivia graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in International Relations and French and is now living in Buenos Aires as a digital transplant and committed vegetarian.


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  • http://twitter.com/AmandaCrater Amanda Crater

    Nice article Olivia!

  • http://twitter.com/OKL Olivia Khalili

    Thanks Amanda. I appreciate your read and comment.

  • http://twitter.com/AmandaCrater Amanda Crater

    Nice article Olivia!

  • http://twitter.com/OKL Olivia Khalili

    Thanks Amanda. I appreciate your read and comment.