Social Enterprises: What are They and How Can They Benefit Your Travels?

We all are familiar with the entrepreneurial term “start-up” and we understand the difference between a “not-for-profit” or “for-profit” business structure. In fact, we may think that nonprofits are the only set-up for worldwide charities, and believe that supporting these through financing and volunteering is the only way to give back. But is there another option? Now, there is.

Enter the social enterprise, where the combined efforts of a traditional business model paired with its core social mission are the new keys to reaching the varied needs of the world in a self-sustainable way. Instead of operating as a nonprofit or for-profit, these companies run to be “for benefit.”

Like for-profits, social enterprises can generate a broad range of products and services that improve quality of life for consumers, create jobs, and contribute to the economy. Like nonprofits, they can pursue a wide range of social missions.
– Heerad Sabeti,
Harvard Business Review

Or put a little differently:
Social enterprises are businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas. They are self-run, whether they generate a significant earned income stream within a nonprofit’s mixed revenue portfolio, or a for-profit enterprise. The common good is their primary purpose, literally “baked into” the organization’s DNA, and trumping all others.
Source:  Social Enterprise Alliance

I particularly love the concept of social enterprises because not only are they self-sustainable, they foster creativity – both for the creator and those being served by the company, leading to a more culturally-rich community.

You may be familiar with mainstream “for benefit” social enterprises like TOMS Shoes or Feed, but there are literally millions of people around the world creating good for their communities in creative ways while creating profits.

Social Enterprises Curated for You

In my recent travel guide to Phnom Penh, I highlighted several Social Enterprise options to check out during your travels, from shopping, to dining and sightseeing. I particularly loved Daughters of Cambodia, located in the red-light district. They invite girls to escape sex trafficking by giving them work and tools for their self-advancement. Their approach is an honorable one that does not follow the typical aid model of dependency. It provides them with a respectable occupation, training them to develop skills so that they can better their lives. In addition to running a boutique hotel, craft operations center, café and retail shop, they also provide their workers with medical services, therapeutic creative classes and educational opportunities.

Daughters of Cambodia is just one example, and it is my goal through The Global Commute to highlight as many great companies as I can through my Global Series that you can enjoy as you journey through the world.  It’s quite remarkable that millions of these exist and yet they are virtually unknown to the average traveler because of the lack of easily accessible information for tourists… it’s the missing piece of the puzzle in the huge effort to bring forth change through social entrepreneurship. Just think of how powerful the traveler can be to support worldwide small business initiatives just be switching their support from one restaurant to the other!

My hope is that through The Global Commute, we can begin to travel with more significance and creativity by spending our time and money to benefit the communities we visit in a sustainable way.  Not to mention, it’s just more fun! I would much rather eat in a restaurant where the waiters are street kids turned chefs, than some chain cafe that does not even feel local. Wouldn’t you?

I believe that with this mindset, our travels will become richer and more rewarding. Be on the lookout for my travel guides, posted within each series. Inside these “How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List” travel guides: shops, restaurants, touring companies and volunteering opportunities that practice this “for benefit” business approach will be highlighted along with traditional charity’s when warranted.

Let’s continue together on our world tour, as we explore one destination at a time on The Global Commute through social enterprises!

“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.”
– Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka Changemakers


Feature Photo Credit: Thinkstock/ Getty Images News/ Oil Scarff

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