(This picture is from their website.)
Almost a month ago I went to a social enterprise talk in Taiwan. This social enterprise includes two cooperatives – Producers’ cooperative and Consumers’ cooperative (消費和生產合作社). It’s called Mr. Wang’s Vegetable Stands.
Mr.Wang’s Vegetable Stands promotes exchange of goods instead of monetary exchange. It gathers 300 farming families and help them sell goods in exchange for money. Mr. Wang himself was a PhD student. When doing his research on farmers, he discovered that farmers are looking for stable buyers who’ve helped them for a long time. Ironically, his research topic was “how micro enterprises could survive in remove areas”, but his conclusion was, it was very difficult for those enterprises to survive. Since then he has been trying to build a “eco-village” – back to dreams of the past, self-fulfilling cooperatives, instead of a capitalism society that runs around money.
1. Mr. Wang’s view on social enterprise
“A social enterprise should involve a marginalized group into the market.” He hopes young people can come back to the village and build it.
“The core of social enterprise business design is to bring out people’s talent. Let the poor show their talents, do what they do the best. Marginalized group is created not by nature, but by society. We, as a society, kept a group out of the capital market. Social enterprise is not an NPO. Finding a path to make money and sustain operation is the goal of any enterprise, a social enterprise should not be exempted from it. I would not turn it into an NPO because I believe in its sustainability. Even when others try to persuade me to become an NPO, so that I can receive free funding.”
2. Difficulties and Operations
From 5 families to 60 families. If you calculate the consequence, you are not very likely to start anything. another year, buyer families grew from 60 families to 250 families. 60 small families. Families cannot bargain prices. If you bargain, you should leave the system. Price is set at premium. His wife disputed with him why he wouldn’t reduce the prices. His vision is to produce high quality goods, the best services and prove his products’ worth. 。”When you have no money, you will be forced to show your true talent. ” 沒有錢能逼出你的真正天賦
3. Why do social enterprises take a long time to build?
Social enterprise takes a long time to build, because the concept of cooperation, not giving or exploiting. Demand is there, supply is there. But it lacks the monetary exchange. Government’s funding should only be spent on social welfare, not pool into the capital market. The person who’s able to change the current situation is not the government, not the poor, but the ones with knowledge. Yet it is not easy to pursue people with good education and ability to join this sector and fulfill a social mission.
4. How about scaling?
If a social enterprise is asking more money than it makes, it’s not an enterprise! If a s.e. can deal with financial difficulties and not ask for government funding, it is proven to be sustainable. It also means it is scalable.