The Fourth Sector is a phrase used to label the rising sector of social endeavour that variously involves a combination of philanthropy, faith, goodwill, good works, mission, government, NGOs, and . . . wait for it . . . business.
It can involve social, green, for-benefit or do-good business, but basically we are talking about business ventures that have some form of benefit to the community as well as to the original investor(s).
One of our SWAP Ambassadors was deeply challenged earlier this year when we visited Uafato as a team. Taking the worst road in Samoa (yes literally the worst – a goat-track that challenges even a 4WD) we travelled to the end of the road (yes, literally to the end of the road) to a lovely little village known for its bowl carving prowess.
One of the biggest challenges she faced while visiting was wrestling with the idea of introducing new business ideas to what seemed like a lovely little idyllic village. Everything inside of her, and also one of our other SWAP Ambassadors still earlier in the year, screamed out “Leave them alone! For God’s sake don’t spoil the village! It just has to be kept this way!”
So the challenge for an entrepreneur like myself in such a situation is enormous. How to do business, but also help in a way that “doesn’t spoil it”.
Enter Fourth Sector thinking.
In my previous post I talked about a Christian motivation and how it can outwork in practical ways for the good of mankind. Essentially attempting to make the world a better place, certainly in your own sphere of influence. So in terms of the faith aspect of the Fourth Sector, I’m already there.
This village is already Christian as a village – two churches and social expectation to attend/do the churchy thing – so my role is not to convert. I am in the process of bringing in Fourth Sector thinking through business.
In the early days of meeting new people and getting to know them, it is often the first things that people say that are the most important – sure there are deeper things that remain hidden and have to be dug out – but generally the things at the top of a relationship building exercise are the most vital. Here are the biggies (paraphrased) for this village:
- We value our Sunday observance. Nobody is allowed to work or even swim in the river or beach on Sunday.
- We don’t want anybody to interfere with us. We have our own rules. They are tough; they work and we like it that way. We even told the government [water authority] to butt out of our village.
- We just want to sell our bowls [It is getting harder to sell bowls with reduced tourism numbers]
So, wanting to profit, wanting to help them, but also wanting to protect this little oasis, I’ve been working to develop a strong brand – the Ninth Heaven (Pic). I’ve been encouraging them to work together (as opposed to the traditional Samoan family-based approach) and helping them to see the increased value in carving high quality products. I’m in the process of actively taking the products to the world, and wanting to lift the value of each item by creating investment value for the buyers of the items as well as generating a greater long-term return for the carvers.
In the process I am sharing my business experience with them, teaching key leaders about the Internet, branding, investment markets and ethics. This business is an evolving one, but the seeds are there for a healthy Fourth Sector operation that should generate enormous goodwill for many.
For years, I’ve seen philanthropy in business hover mainly around the giving – Bill Gates “gives” $xxxxxx with a few commas and many noughts (only to causes and trusts that he believes in or owns of course). A corporate “donated” something to a worthy cause (and often to a pet cause of the GM or board). An NGO “gave” something of value to somebody or some organisation.
Samoa is replete with gifts. Virtually any school, church or building bigger than a stick hut has almost certainly been gifted by somebody, somewhere – family in Australia, USA or New Zealand, the EU, Aus-Aid, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, or a gazillion other good causes, but I believe that Fourth Sector thinking is a better answer to the challenges of poverty.
I’ve always liked the World Vision process of getting in there and working in a place with practical things that make a difference, but working from within a certain culture.
It’s a lot harder to get your hands dirty. It’s not easy but it has an enormous payday in developing all that is good and godly – relationship building, sense of achievement, mentoring for self-determination, utilising various strengths and developing opportunities.
Charity is well and good, but it creates a poverty mentality that is a vicious cycle. I’ve mentioned this before in one of my first posts on helping Samoa post-Tsunami. Sure, following the Tsunami giving was essential and in special circumstances is a big help, but overall I see Fourth Sector business as the best way, and most biblical way to help someone.
There are other ways to help too – Micro-Finance helps enormously. I notice that Sam Morgan has gifted a large sum to SPBD, the micro-finance organisation set up in Samoa by Greg Cassagrande some ten years ago. I consider Greg a friend and greatly respect his work. I’ve helped him with his website since day one and I still help his staff whenever they need it. I’ve been out and watched his agents in the field and it is eye opening. It’s all good. It’s a needed service – business of course but doing it for good.
We are going a little deeper with some of the things we are doing – Village Stays and the Ninth Heaven branding for Uafato, but Fourth Sector work is not about being right, or better. I believe it’s all about doing what you can when you can where you can.
In New Zealand I would setup a Charitable Trust and get to work fundraising. I’ve set up a Charitable Trust with Debbie here but the real benefit comes from doing the Fourth Sector business, whatever shape it may come in.
It is not easy to push through with anything new. It requires strength of character, guts and bravery, but at the end of the day, they’ll be able to write on my gravestone “He gave it all!”
There’s a gazillion more