Can a public initiative also be a successful business project? The practice of social investing proves that it is possible. Moreover, this approach is a new level of responsibility for entrepreneurs when the tools of business are applied to support the development of society as a whole.
We have all become used to the fact that large companies are implementing CSR projects in their places of work. Environmental protection, support for education, science, culture, development of urban infrastructure – they are amongst the most popular topics gaining CSR support. As a rule, such projects are really needed by the public, but let’s not forget that for large businesses, Corporate Social Responsibility is also a tool in their wider promotion or marketing strategy. It is good that companies work both for the benefit of society and at the same time use that work to popularise themselves, but it may also happen that in place of an important decision or project being implemented, little more than a beautiful screen for receiving references in the media is accomplished.
Social investment overcomes this problem, including public utility in the very fabric of the business project itself. In other words, problem solving ceases to be a cost item for communication, and becomes a way to build a business. Awareness of all the challenges facing the planet in general, as well as to each individual citizen, is a key incentive that attracts more and more specialists all over the world to social investment. At the same time, the projects cover completely different spheres of life: from environmental initiatives to the creation of a society of equal opportunities.
And what about Ukraine? In our country too, in recent years, this area has become increasingly active. There are a whole range of reasons for the growth in this area: from the simplification of business opportunities in general to more open access to European funding and support. And support for a responsible business really can be found. Despite the fact that projects are most often implemented locally, their structure, as a rule, can be transferred to other contexts and successfully implemented there. In fact, it is a long-known principle of globalisation (from the combination of the English words global and local) – to think big, but to implement it precisely and with local needs.
For the time being, Ukraine’s processes of revitalisation are best developed in large cities, where abandoned infrastructure facilities are transformed into new places of attraction for innovative and creative businesses. One of the most vivid examples is the metropolitan Art Plant Platform, which was turned from a dilapidated building into a place where people had created an entirely new environment. Gaining momentum also are environmental initiatives, because in the same green energy we see more and more new solutions. There are interesting startups of smart solutions in urban infrastructure, it is important that not everything is concentrated just in the capital.
One of the largest and most systematic examples of work in this direction is Impact Hub Odessa. There, the project team managed to build a whole ecosystem of work with social projects: from the selection of viable solutions, to support in building a business. An important initiative in recent years is the creation of business opportunities for immigrants. Such strategic solutions, as opposed to just point assistance (although that, of course, remains necessary) creates a more sustainable solution. Helping people find a project that is convenient for themselves to be involved in, and then helping to develop it.
In my opinion, it is social projects that need maximum support from a variety of sources. The fact is that they change society not only through content (the solution of the problem with which they work), but also more systematically – they show that business can be creative and developing, and not just a means to enrich individuals.