Saturday, February 28, 2009

Calling all Philanthrocapitalists!

The economic collapse may have immobilized the capital markets for the most part, but there's a silver lining in all of this. Matthew Bishop and Michael Green's theory on how private enterprise can actively empower social, political and environmental development is one such movement that is gaining momentum.

To start, we know a couple of key things. First, philanthropic endeavors can and do help the bottom line of corporations. The accounting cycles can be handled a number of different ways, but in essence, you go about your business and form a subsidiary 503c. You have a write-off, and you don't necessarily have to donate a percentage of proceeds (although you should, but that's another conversation). Second, philanthropy is a great incentive for innovation. Just look at what the X-Prize Foundation has been doing (Sergey Brin and Larry Page's brainchild) with it's corporate partnerships. Scientific advancement in aerospace and nanotechnology are rapidly experiencing dynamic new shifts, and with a little bit of patience, there is a return that stretches far beyond the initial investment.

Now let's look at the government's role in supporting an open relationship with private enterprise. We know that our new administration is fostering a climate that supports small business and entrepreneurialism - as long as you don't try to cook the books, you're gonna get the breaks you need. The administration has also committed stimulus dollars directly into these development sectors, as well as bolstering, for example, the resource pools that municipalities need to thrive and keep pushing forward on things like renewable energy.

So what does this mean? This means that Church and State are starting to think along the same plane. It means that bipartisanship might actually be set into action (it already has to some extent). It also means that this country, as well as the free world, has an opportunity to return to greatness sooner than you think.

Harken back to the days of the industrial revolution, when confidence and productivity worked in concert. There was a sentiment of fearlessness - people with even marginal trade skills by today's standards had nothing to lose and everything to gain in trying something new. Now, we are making a similar return to the truth. We have no choice but to be altruistic, and in many ways, optimistic. 

From a marketing perspective, consumer confidence will rely heavily on newly built or rebuilt brand relationships. From a manufacturing perspective, supply chain systems will have to experiment and take more calculated risks. From a media perspective, a more collaborative environment will be needed to address the evolving needs of affiliates and consumers. And all of this will facilitated by a reciprocal and equitable investment in the development process from corporations and government agencies.

So try out that big idea of yours. Put pen to paper, or finger to typepad. Talk to your peers. Think about what that product or service means in the role of affecting change. It's very likely that those dreamy concepts of yesteryear will now come to life. 

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