Republican vs. Democrat — Social Enterprise and the Common Good


Justin Ferira (OI and MPA ’09), Contributing Writer

An optimistic and enterprising spirit is at the heart of the overarching American ideal and the individual American dream. There is a sense of endless individual and collective potential in our population that drives innovation and the furtherance and growth of our country.

The optimal approach to advancing social enterprise is to harness the potential of Americans and American ingenuity, and to incent both individuals and organizations to achieve such a calling. Undue government interference narrows scope, wastes money, and muddles efficiency.

Senator John McCain and the Republican party keenly understand that incenting Americans and American small businesses to innovate is the ideal incubator for solving social enterprise problems that relate to education, healthcare, energy, and poverty. Social entrepreneurs will play a key role in helping create new education models to fix our current bureaucratic approach to educating children. Social entrepreneurs will help lead the charge in identifying new clean and renewable energy sources for tomorrow. Social entrepreneurs will innovate in healthcare by lowering medicine costs through competition and treatment costs by creating new organizational models.

Simply stating “Yes, We Can!” as a campaign slogan may serve to stir Americans to a calling, but placing higher taxes on small business owners, growing government programs, and increasing spending do not promote grassroots action and innovation – they create a system that slows efficiency and makes it harder.

Social entrepreneurs often provide the solutions to problems the government has failed to address itself. Smaller organizations led by social entrepreneurs are able to operate unencumbered by bureaucracy and pandering to political interests for survival. Social entrepreneurs knowingly choose to craft business models (whether for-profit, non-profit, or hybrids) that are in line with their missions without government oversight or reporting.

At a time when so many solutions are needed to address issues in education, energy, and healthcare, social entrepreneurs will serve a critical role of grassroots innovators that will help unlock solutions in these areas. Devolution of this ability to the individual level and away from the government’s oversight will aid the process. The role of the government should be to help speed the process through education and incentives.

Despite the altruistic intentions of those who would claim that more government programs and more government subsidies would aid social enterprise advancements, the benefits would not fully maximize the untapped potential. Government meddling and interference neither leads to the most efficient use of money, nor does it facilitate the greatest unlocking of ideas and concepts.


Elana Berkowitz (OA) and MPA ’09, Contributing Writer

“We need to invest in grassroots ideas, because the ‘next great innovation’ usually doesn’t come from government,” Senator Obama recently wrote in an op-ed in TIME magazine.

Social entrepreneurs, whether working with non-profit, for-profit or blended business models, are helping improve education for America’s children, helping fill gaps in our healthcare system and bringing families out of poverty by building jobs and job skills. Senator Obama keenly understands that government won’t have all the solutions and that, sometimes, smaller-scale social entrepreneurs not burdened by the pressures of endless election cycles and large bureaucracy can come up with creative solutions for American’s social problems.

Both candidates are laudably and vocally drawing attention to the importance of various forms of national service,ÿin fact co-sponsoring The Serve America Act. However, given Senator McCain’s talk of the power of the American entrepreneurial spirit, one would expect more talk about social entrepreneurship.

Instead, it is the Obama campaign that has much more explicitly emphasized its support of this sector throughout the campaign. The importance of social entrepreneurship has been explicitly emphasized in the Democratic party platform, a number of Obama’s speeches and op-eds, and in the Senator’s book Change We Can Believe In.

Senator Obama has proposed the creation of a “Social Investment Fund Network,” which would take a venture philanthropy approach to supporting social entrepreneurs as well as helping the sector build capacity for measuring impact and enhancing accountability. In a speech, Senator Obama explained that “the nonprofit sector employs one in 12 Americans and 115 nonprofits are launched every day. Yet, while the federal government invests $7 billion in research and development for the private sector, there is no similar effort to support non-profit innovation.” An Obama administration will be committed to supporting the highest-performing social entrepreneurs reach scale and replicate their important programs nationwide.