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Social Entrepreneurship

I advocate a new kind of capitalism called social entrepreneurship. As J. Gregory Dees writes: For social entrepreneurs, the social mission is explicit and central. This obviously affects how social entrepreneurs perceive and assess opportunities. Mission-related impact becomes the central criterion, not wealth creation. Wealth is just a means to an end for social entrepreneurs.

The Microenterprise Argument

Mental health consumers living lives of desolation. As a mental person living among mental people, I see it every day. People idle, vainly fingering the keys of a remote control between puffs of acrid smoke. The reality is heartbreaking, particularly when one appreciates how full, rich, and meaningful existence can be. We've been set adrift.

How can we, the millions of people subsisting on a minimal monthly government payment, create meaning in our daily activities and catch sight of a reason to strive, a reason to grow? How can we escape the hardships imposed by our poverty? And who can we look to for the answers? Government? Faith-based charities? Private service-providers?

My conviction is that in each of us is the power to elevate our circumstance, to achieve economic empowerment and gainful direction through participation in the mental movement. Here's an example:

I'm in business with Chad Knight, a mental person living in an adult home in Roanoke, Virginia. I drive him to our local SAM's Club to buy candy which he sells to his fellow adult home residents. In return for providing capital for Chad's business I receive a share of the profits. Each of us donates a portion of our profits to peer-directed mental health charity.

Chad and I aren't quite ready to retire to the Riviera, but what this example illustrates is how a tiny outlay of cash, about 70 dollars in Chad's case, can result in a) feelings of economic empowerment (Chad and I enjoy our role as businessmen), b) the opportunity to learn valuable business skills, c) a means of providing hope of economic opportunity to those our business touches, and d) the establishment of a peer-directed flow of cash into our movement. When one considers that 70 dollars might only buy an hour or two of a typical service provider's time, I'd say that's good value!

Let's spread the word of peer-directed microenterprise. Organizations such as the Corporation for Enterprise Development (http://www.cfed.org) are already in place to assist those hoping to begin microenterprises. By seeding our entrepreneurial efforts a business community may be established, an overtly mental business community patronized by mental people and directing our movement's charitable efforts. A day of pride and industry awaits, a time to get off the sofa and make things happen.

Marc Cowgill 9/5/02