When looking at the sustainable development goals, or destitute situations around the world, we often default to picturing traditional avenues like NGOs and traditional means like aid as the solution. However, in my opinion, it's important to change our perspective by, instead, looking to social enterprises as the key. There are already countless examples of social enterprises working in developing countries with a joint purpose of turning a profit and contributing to a sustainable development goal. Often, these social enterprises are scrutinized because many believe the aforementioned goals are mutually exclusive. Despite the perceptions of some, I believe that these goals can actually go hand in hand. I would go so far as to say that social enterprises are exactly what is needed if we intend to meet our SDGs at all.
These are what I view as the benefits that social enterprises hold:
(1) Mutual interests - Whereas, with aid, the only party benefitting is the recipient, the projects that social enterprises launch are better able to be sustained because the interests of both parties (the recipient and the company) are met.
(2) Innovation - The very nature of companies are that they must constantly innovate in order to survive. This means tremendous benefits for the developing countries in which they work as they will have access to the best and newest innovations.
(3) Promoting sustainable livelihoods - As the old adage goes, "If you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day. But, if you teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime." As noble as it is, aid is only a temporary solution, like putting a bandage over a wound. The presence of social enterprises can create jobs for locals, stimulate innovation, and provide long-term support, boosting local industries in the process. Oftentimes, this innovation through social enterprises even comes from local social entrepreneurs, leading to an even greater impact on the livelihoods of those in the country.
If we are to make any progress on our sustainable development goals, discovering the best method to achieve that progress is a necessity. I'd love to hear your thoughts and discuss this pertinent issue—what are the best mechanisms by which to achieve the SDGs?