A couple of weekends ago I traveled to Vancouver, B.C. for a weekend excursion with some friends. I had never been before so I really didn’t know what to expect. We had the good fortune of visiting just days after the riots because we saw the heart of the city. For blocks, vandalized windows were boarded up with plywood marked with thousands of messages apologizing for the damages
and expressing their love for their city. Apparently, the day before we arrived there was a massive community cleanup. I assume most of the messages were from community members part of the cleanup, but we also saw artists and passer-bys take a moment to contribute to the collective community art throughout the weekend. There was also a kindness flag project during the weekend calling on community members to create and hang up flags around downtown to promote peace and kindness. Seeing the community band together was so amazing and humbling! But what totally blew me away was some people had written on a police car and posted post-it notes on it, and instead of the police stopping it, they condoned and promoted it by putting the car on display for community members to continue posting their thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I find that remarkable.
My weekend in Vancouver had me thinking a lot about the power of community. With community, a lot of good can happen. So, I wonder about social ventures that are founded by people not part of the community the venture intends to serve. We talk a lot
about sustainability referring to the business model and the environment, but what about the sustainability of the “roots” or “soul” of a venture particularly if the venture was not grown out of that community. If the venture does not invest in the local human capital or nurture community spirit, the venture is merely exercising their ego and privilege of circumstance. A community when brought together and encouraged can create or overcome anything as demonstrated as simply in Vancouver to as paramount as the Tunisian revolution. The role of social enterprise should be to create the space to unleash the power of community to creating lasting social change.