Expanding on concepts that he discussed in a previous, shorter work called Just Another Emperor, Michael Edwards calls into question the current love affair that business has with itself regarding its ability (or not) to make change in the developing world. Called by various names, such as the inelegant "philanthro-capitalism" and the slightly less awkward "social entrepreneurship," the theory claims that a for-profit model is more effective at reducing poverty or preventing disease than the traditional model of international development (aka foreign aid).
While it's true that international aid and the organizations that control it (the World Bank, the UN), could be more effective, it seems to me a big jump to claim that wide-scale development can be accomplished by setting the world's poor up in business. Edwards makes a strong case for stepping back and fully assessing the impacts, especially the long-term ones.
Edwards doesn't assert that for-profit social ventures haven't been a positive force. Some certainly have, particularly those that are created by offering micro-credit to individuals and communities through institutions such as the Grameen Bank and more recently Kiva. But his many years in the field, including a stint as one of the few directors of the Ford Foundation, make his a voice to which "attention must be paid."
I highly recommend this concise and compelling book. I also encourage readers to keep an eye out for one of Edwards' public appearances, as it can be a very satisfying experience to attend one of his lectures on this topic.
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About the reviewer
Bonnie McEwan (BonnieMcEwan)
I own a communications consultancy in NYC called MAKE WAVES, which serves nonprofit organizations and foundations. I also hold a Visiting Lecturer position at Milano: The New School for Management & … more
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