Let’s Move to “Social Profit”

– by Ian Fawcett

I don’t know of any charitable organization, or any other “not-for-profit” organization, that doesn’t try to gain a greater “return” than the value of the resources they “invest” in their work.  That’s how they continue to exist, pay the bills, and get their work done.  That’s how they provide significant benefit to society.  By any reasonable definition, that return on investment is called “making a profit.”  In many cases, that profit is huge – and often far in excess of what could be achieved by traditional “for profit” businesses.  The difference, of course, is simply in how that profit is measured, and who receives it.

But it’s not just the misnomer, or inaccuracy, of the term that bothers me and so many others.  It’s the attitude and misunderstanding that seems to come with it.  There is, all too often, an expectation that charities and other “non-profits” should be limited and constrained in how they go about achieving their objectives; that innovation, prudent risk-taking, pushing the boundaries, attracting investors, and other such strategies are really the domain of those trying to make a “profit” (i.e. something for themselves), and really have no place in the arsenal of those trying to make a better world.  The really sad part of this is that far too many charities and other non-profits, fearing a backlash, limit and constrain their own actions and, even worse, their own expectations.

It’s time to shake off these shackles, and free up the creativity, ingenuity and passion of those working for the social good, wherever they may be found – whether in charities, social organizations, or businesses (like Change Canada Consultants).  It starts with clearly defining who we are and what we are about – and that’s why we at Change Canada are joining with many others to adopt the use of the term “Social Profit” for this sector.  This change of name – a re-branding in every sense of the term – is, we hope, the beginning of an attitudinal shift in society that will see this sector not as a marginalized bunch of well-meaning folks, but as a driving force for a healthier future, and that will see us putting as much effort, ingenuity and resources into fixing our social and environmental problems as we have put into creating them.

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