Every society possesses a wide array of socio-economic issues, even those that the government proves incapable of fixing. Charities provide aid, and a means to an end, but sometimes an issue requires maximum man-power, to the degree of movement, in order to facilitate change towards a solution. To the social entrepreneur, the journey towards ultimate solution shall never stop at mere alleviation. Rather than rely on government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs seek solutions by shaking the system, spreading the cause, and persuading societies to follow their leap (Ashoka). Fam Mirza presents an epitomic profile of an ethically successful social entrepreneur, and his new company “1Facewatches” displays a case in action built by the powerful foundations of cause and need. This essay begins with a broad definition of social entrepreneurship, followed by a description of the “1Facewatch” case. The definition and case funneled by an analysis through a Kantian ethical lens, and the essay concluded by final judgment of the company’s ethics..
WTF IS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Within the blurry definition of social entrepreneurship, there exists both for-profit and non-profit entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, they both create, and create value specifically for a certain cause. When a long-term problem persists, or a new problem arises, many want to take action but see a problem too large for an individual to make an impact, or they simply don’t know how to make an impact (Bornstein). Our unsung heroes, the social entrepreneurs, provide the needed leadership to gather the masses and unite for a common cause. In this essay we focus on a for-profit entrepreneur, one that trains consumers to become soldiers in a beneficial movement, whether the consumers realize or not. These innovative social entrepreneurs respond to mishandled problems with creativity and energy in order to build solutions from scratch. They serve as the bridge between the citizens seeking implementation of social-good and those who need help.
“The most prevalent use of the term social entrepreneurship, however, focuses on the role of the risk-taking individual (or group of individuals) who, against all odds, creates social change. In this view, social entrepreneurship is not so much about pattern-breaking change, but about pattern-breaking individuals” (Light).
Although social entrepreneurship starts with a leader, the groups and organizations deserve recognition as well. A movement, and consequently a solution, cannot ride on an individual. The process requires individuals, groups, and organizations to unite for one common cause. Impatience works as the greatest virtue for social entrepreneurs, and they harness that innovative focus to build, while at consecutively recruiting others to follow (Elkington).
HOW CAN SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP POSSIBLY BE UNETHICAL?
Problems can arise through any change in process, and therefore social entrepreneurship must be performed carefully and correctly. Especially in third-world developing countries, social change can cause a huge rift (Nicholls). Although a social entrepreneur may desire to offer goods or charity in hopes of alleviating a problem, this can result in an economic downturn due to the offerings eliminating local entrepreneurship. TOM’S show drop-offs serve as a case example, which many argue as an ethical action due to free shoes serving as competition to local entrepreneurs who rely on poorer customers.
Another problem can surface during business scaling. Investors and shareholders will push for profit, and sometimes the social entrepreneur who started it all feels forced to grow capital in order for the business to survive. Instead of measuring purely environmental and social effects as results, Whole Foods founder John Mackey sought to grow and scale the business. He soon found himself in public scandals with the SEC regarding investments and acquisitions (Elkington).
The most philosophical of all issues can argue that social entrepreneurship can hurt communities if only providing a short-term solution. Using an old proverb as an example, donating fish to a starving community would surely save lives. But what happens when the social entrepreneur can no longer provide fish, and the dependent community has no fish left? It’s better to give a man a fishing rod, than to give him a fish. In other words, short-term solutions may alleviate the problem, but providing long-term solutions proves vital to the ultimate health of the community.
Problem of for-profit: using “the problem” to sell products and make money, rather than selling products to solve the problem. It’s as simple as that.
Finally, tread cautiously when analyzing a social entrepreneur under an ethical lense. “In his 1970 New York Times Magazine article, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,’ Friedman argued that executives should not divert profit from stockholders to social causes. The primary reason is that the money belongs to the shareholders to spend as they see fit” (Schmidt). Friedman also claimed that prime business executives and managers lacked the skills needed to solve social problems, and should stick to focusing on profit. Over the years, corporate philanthropy unfortunately shifted to strategic philanthropy.
FAM: THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR
I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Fam Mirza, and hear about his project through a phone call. He struck me as clever, passionate, and determined. The following is his story.
Born to an Arab-Egyptian father and an Indian mother, Fam Mirza lived in Qatar for 5 years then moved to America. Within Qatar he witnessed “poverty and hunger first hand,” and continued to communicate with his family back home. After running a successful branding firm, Fam deemed it time to utilize his skills to impact the developing world. Four months later, Fam completed plans for the 1Facewatch. He explained to me that the most important factor to 1Facewatch success: branding. “The product itself is great and trendy but the branding behind it conveys a very powerful message to the consumer and makes them feel like they are a part of something” (Ideamensch). The design of the watch displays a mirror over the face, which provides a symbolic message:
“Believing that change originated from within, I designed the face of the watch to be a mirror. When you check the time, you see your reflection, your face, looking back within you.”
That’s right, the movement starts with YOU, the consumer. The 1:face project launched on indiegogo, a crowdfunding site, with a powerful promo video that continually stresses Fam’s personal story (motivation), along with the responsibility of the consumer to make a difference (Thorpe). Fam Mirza, a branding guru, skillfully and emotionally sends a direct message to the consumer that their help is needed. Through third-world imagery and creative product placement, Fam draws the consumer in to sympathize with the cause. Nevertheless the watches are trendy, and Fam’s team has done a great job of socially advertising the images through instagram, twitter, and facebook, while also encouraging consumers to spread the cause throughout their social networks. Fam continually reminds the consumers. “We are not selling a watch. We are selling a movement!” The combination of symbolic design, product placement, story, and imagery certainly provokes a subconscious emotional attachment of the watches and those suffering from poverty. Within the first two night of their indigogo campaign, 1Facewatch surpassed their goal of $25,000. “If the early numbers are an accurate indication, then Mirza’s ideas about utilizing creative visual elements to build a strong social media buzz and galvanize civic involvement in humanitarian causes are on target. He’s betting that consumers are hungry for something more than just a product. With the 1 Face Watch, he’s aiming to give it to them” (Pannell).
Fam explained to me his motivation, “50% of the world lives under $2.50 a day. I believe we will feed millions by using the power of consumers with the current project we are working on now, the 1 Face Project.”
Each color watch supports a specific non-profit, along with a specific metric. For example, one purchased blue watch supports “The Adventure Project,” and every 3 watches purchased provides 1 charcoal efficient stove to a family in Haiti. Naturally, as with any charitable cause, consumers question the reliability of the charities. “According to Mark Moschel of Mirza Minds, the company secured partnerships with the charities. So rather than receiving a percentage of sales, the charities have committed to donate the items above for each sale.”(Mackren). On top of the partnerships, 1Facewatch provides youtube videos displaying the charity founders encouraging sales. Fam carefully selected the charities, and demanded more than just a short-term solution to needs. For example, “The Adventure Project,” creates jobs for locals as well, in order to build and provide charcoal efficient stoves. With a powerful story and honest charities on board, 1Facewatch appears destined to create a positive impact.
1:Facewatch FROM A KANTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Kant distinguished between tow types of duties: hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives. Hypothetical imperatives describe who “do something so they may get something else” (Bowie). In other words, hypothetical imperatives can describe an unethical social entrepreneur that advertises a problem or charity in order to earn profit. Kant believed reason provided the bases for the categorical imperative, and Fam Mirza, growing up in an impoverished community, certainly possesses a reason to help.
1:Facewatch can be analyzed and tested through Kant’s three formulations of the categorical imperative:
1. Act only on maxims which you can will to be universal laws of nature. (what would happen if the principle (maxim) of your action were a universal law (one that everyone acted on).
1:Facewatch– If the whole world contributed to selective charities and foundations that provided long-term solutions, such as economic growth (The Adventure Project) and health support (National Breast Cancer Foundations), the world would be a much better place.
2. Always treat the humanity in a person as an end, and never as a means merely.
1:Facewatch- The team built wells, spoke in impoverished communities, consulted with charities, and delegated metrics rather than just funds. Fam Mirza’s goal presents a movement with an end solution of help the people in need. The watches represent the means.
3. So act as if you were a member of an ideal kingdom of ends in which you were both subject and sovereign at the same time.
1:Facewatch- The team places the stakeholders above all. The consumers are provided a way to help, along with a trendy product. The charities receive a partnership and productive work. The people in need receive support, in several unique methods. In Fam’s kingdom, everybody wins.
“Kant’s ethics then is an ethics of duty rather than an ethics of consequences. The ethical person is the person who acts from the right intentions” (Bowie). 1:Facewatch has passed the test with actions of categorical imperative. After reading about 1:Facewatch, watching the videos, learning about social entrepreneurial ethics, and speaking with Fam, I can confidently conclude that Fam Mirza acts from the purest intentions of helping those in need. His reason is buried in his upbringing, and his success lies in his ability to connect consumers with this beneficial brand.
Results so far:
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