Saturday, September 08, 2007

Entrepreneurs saving the world

In a post called “CEOs to the Rescue,” Inc. Magazine yesterday drew attention to a speech by former president Bill Clinton at its Inc. 500 conference encouraging America's top entrepreneurs to channel their creativity into tackling the health-care crisis, poverty and other pressing social problems.

We need a culture change here and an organizational change: things that entrepreneurs do well,” said Clinton. “Everybody can give something, whether it’s time, money or talent.”

Strangely, Inc. (or Clinton) didn't provide many follow-on examples. Here’s the gist of the post, on Inc’s Fresh Inc. blog:

As an example, he pointed to the rise of employee wellness programs that are helping to contain soaring health-care costs. Or a private-sector initiative aimed at helping low-income earners open bank accounts for a better financial footing – what Clinton called the flipside of the subprime mortgage crisis. “We’re talking about people taking their money out from under a mattress and putting it in a bank.”
More generally, successful business owners might also tap into a rising global consciousness among ordinary Americans – which saw more than a billion dollars in donations go towards tsunami victims in Southeast Asia – and an upward trend in corporate philanthropy, Clinton said.

In an attempt to drum up some action on their blog, Inc. then asked for comments. “So what do you think? Will CEOs save the world?” Here’s what I wrote for my comment on their blog:

Entrepreneurs are already changing the world. Look at the work Bill Gates is doing, and [Canadian] Jeff Skoll (eBay's first president, who now has his own foundation encouraging social entrepreneurship), and so many others.

In fact, they are likely to accomplish much more than Bill Clinton and other do-gooding politicians, because entrepreneurs are committed to results. They don't throw good money after bad because they are committed to making a difference; they're willing to walk away from a situation when it's no longer working out the way they'd expected. (Unlike politicians, they are allowed to admit mistakes.)

They also have more freedom to experiment (see Nicholas Negroponte and his $100 laptop), so they are more likely to discover innovative means of achieving change. And finally, since they tend to favor market-oriented solutions, they are more likely to create sustainable aid programs that will outlive changing trends and political whims.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, or click here to tell Inc.

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