This article is based on a talk with Livia Macedo from MakeSense Shanghai on social enterprise in the world’s second biggest economy. As we count down the days to the World Resources Forum (October 21-23), our attention has been turning increasingly towards fascinating China where it will take place. Given the novelty of the Chinese social enterprise scene, I sat down with Livia Macedo, who is actively involved in the Shanghai hub of the social enterprise network called MakeSense, to talk about the prospects of Chinese social entrepreneurship. Livia, a former mentor of the Choice movement for social enterprise in her home country Brazil, has carried out a market research on social business in China as the national coordinator for edge, and at the same time she has been advocating social enterprise for Shanghai university students, locals and expats alike though the MakeSense gang.
On social enterprise emerging in China:
This has been the title of an article published in the Spring issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review. Recently, the BBC reported about social entrepreneurship being not only a growing trend in China, but also a philanthropic activity with bigger potential than traditional NGO actions. What’s more, China daily wrote about the increasing popularity of social enterprises.
Can biofuels still be the magical solution to our energy problems? Thousands of scientists will admit that biofuels are no longer a new concept (in fact, it is a very old idea). From the ‘first generation’ ethanol to the ‘second generation lignocellulosic’ biofuels and the latest algae-based biofuels, scientists and researchers are trying their best to find the best biofuels solutions. But with controversy shrouding if they’re actually sustainable means that biofuels are still debated hotly. Opposition to biofuels mainly revolves around concerns that are mainly related to the sustainability aspects of their development and manufacturing.
“As my mother said, it’s important for a girl to have more than one suitor.”
Dambisa Moyo, economist and author of multiple New York Times Best-seller books, applies her mother’s maxim to Africa’s economic situation. For Moyo, the girl in the saying represents Africa. And amongst the many suitors clamouring for hand, is China. However, while China’s financial engagement in (sub-Saharan) Africa has strongly increased in the last few years, it has also become subject to widespread criticism, mostly by Western countries. For China, economic relations with Africa are of great significance.
Business can be beautiful! This is no oxymoron. It has already been proven by the growing number of innovative set-ups in the world that create products which not only serve the purpose of personal utility or indulgence, but they also bring about positive environmental and social change in the world. However, we, as consumers, haven’t heard as much about the products as their appeal would lead us to believe. Known by the names of social enterprise and social entrepreneurs, the two concepts have been around since the early 1980s. These business models brought to life to solve social and environmental challenges through the entrepreneurial approach of trading and making profit have been the “next big thing” ever since I started my university studies some five years ago.
As far as grass root foundations are concerned, they are plentiful and abundant. However it is unfortunate that few hit the mainstream media, and many forcibly diffuse just as quickly as they start. The ones that do succeed display certain characteristics and criteria that can be generalized to a relative extent. The criteria for such sustainable development projects can be narrowed down to cheap replication, effectiveness and ease of use. One such initiative that’s spreading around the globe is the Solar Bottle Lamp (it’s known by other names including the water-lamp, water-bottle-lamp etc.).
This summer, the first of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors – the Ohi nuclear plant – reopened 14 months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Since the tsunami in March last year, Japan’s domestic anti-nuclear protests have increased significantly. Tens of thousands of people protested against nuclear power outside Japan’s parliament. Meanwhile, anti-nuclear groups have been growing louder on the use of renewable energy, such as wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy etc. It’s no surprise then that the Japanese government struggled over its decision of resuming the nuclear projects.
Making a better world. All citizens should contribute to improve the welfare of society. This is no longer an idealist point of view anymore but a new perspective that many people support, as Muhammad Yunus remind us. This new thought current denotes a strong critic vis-à-vis the individualization tendency in our society. Happiness is not always correlated with individual amount of money accumulated but more with impact of individuals on their environment, according to the Nobel Peace Price winner.
“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. “
The above is one of my favorite philosophical sayings, and it is from a legend of my hometown, Bruce Lee, a martial artist and modern philosopher.
What happened to the “paperless office”? Despite being surrounded by smartphones and computers, the myth seems not to have become reality. The Economist reports that, since 1980, global paper consumption has increased by half, leading to many of the world’s vast ancient forests being chopped down. The World Resource Institute (WRI) has estimated that only one-fifth of the earth’s original forest remains untouched in relatively natural ecosystems, which WRI calls frontier forests. These forests are necessary to regulate the earth’s climate, storing over 430 billion metric tons of carbon.
When it comes to scarcity of resources, one of the most publicly discussed topics is the impending shortage of fossil fuels. As we have known for a while now, global oil reserves are limited. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2035 will be the decisive year in which the maximum amount of oil production will be achieved. Thereafter, less oil will be available on the market year after year and eventually, reserves will be exhausted. This knowledge implies that people have to change their consumer behavior sooner or later.