Who should help 4 billion starving people?

Not doing enough
Social entrepreneurs: Not doing enough?

It takes some guts to stand up in front of 500+ social entrepreneurs and enablers and tell them that they aren’t doing enough to help the world’s poor. Especially if you’re an invited speaker at the Social Enterprise World Forum, which just wrapped up last Thursday, October 8 in Melbourne, Australia. However, it could well prove the most constructive advice as people head back to their enterprises and continue on their good work.

At his annual event, the Clinton Global Initiative this September, former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced Andy Kuper to the audience as the next Muhammad Yunus. Yunus was the founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for his micro-credit system, helping break the cycle of poverty. That’s some big shoes to fill and Kuper knows it. At the Social Enterprise World Forum, Kuper spoke to the delegates about his new initiative, Leapfrog – a micro-insurance company similar in spirit to micro-credit, offering coverage to low-income people in developing nations. He aims to reach 25 million people in Leapfrog’s first phase of development. This guy thinks big.

During a largely tongue-in-cheek debate on the second day of the Forum, Kuper came out swinging. While praising the efforts of many social entrepreneurs, Kuper was critical of this business sector saying that many still had not worked out how to scale and lacked the vision and capital to tackle the biggest social issues – not the least of which was the four billion starving people in the world.

Kuper said that the only way to help four billion people is to engage big business. Companies like Google and General Electric are the only organizations with enough money and enough experience to work at scale. This was a bone of contention amongst delegates as debates continued throughout the Forum about the value of small scale enterprises in supporting vulnerable communities. I believe it doesn’t have to be either/or, but both/and in this debate. There’s plenty of room for change across scale and big business certainly has to play.

Kuper’s point was great food for thought and certainly swayed many in favour of the negative team in the debate titled, There’s no business like social business. He is a formidable opponent. Good thing he is a social entrepreneur himself.

Hear the full debate here and tell us what you think.

Professor Peter Shergold AC – Centre for Social Impact, Australia

For the affirmative:
Alastair Wilson – School for Social Entrepreneurs, UK (Captain)
Kris Prendergast – Social Enterprise Alliance, USA
Jodie Sizer – Ingenuity Business Consulting, Australia

For the negative:
Rebecca Scott – STREAT, Australia
Dr. Andy Kuper – Leapfrog, USA & Asia (Captain)
Dr. Nir Tsuk – Ashoka, Israel