I am involved with a new program at WPC, the school where I teach. It is an exciting program dealing with Social Entrepreneurship. This program recognizes the importance of free enterprise and creating both economic and social profit. It will offer students a solid business, entrepreneurial, and social education. This will allow the student to have tools needed to act as an entrepreneur, or an intrapreneur. I am quite excited about the possibilities.
I am always looking for real life examples that demonstrate how the process of social entrepreneurship works. The latest is what is called the “Pernambuco Model.” It appears that a small region in Brazil has figured out how the community, business, and government can partner together to create economic growth. I am not a big government person, but I do believe in this triunity’s ability to create a structure that allows people to be successful.
We can see how this partnership works in a small Brazilian state known for its absolute poverty. Nancy Scheper-Hughes studied Timbauba, a small town located in what is called the sugar belt of the Pernambuco state in Brazil, in the 1980’s. “She described a place seemingly resigned to absolute poverty.” Today, however, this region is much different that what Ms. Scheper-Hughes described.
An economic revival began via several steps. The market determined there was an opportunity, and a new port was build very close to Timbauba. Now this area has a “sprawling industrial complex.” People are working in the shipyards and oil companies located there. The port was created via community effort, industrial policy, federal money, initiated by Luiz Inacio Lula, and local government led by Eduardo Campos. This economic area has brought with it “a host of smaller food, textile, and shoe factories,” which are setting up in the Brazil’s poor interior. Obviously there must be a benefit for business to locate in the interior, probably wage levels, but the partnership of the community, government, and business is working there.
According to the Economist this area is now considered at full employment. However, all is not rosy. “The refinery is years behind schedule, as is the shipyard’s order book, partly because illiterate former cane-cutters make poor welders.” To deal with this problem another partner has arrived, the Institute for Co-Responsibility in Education (ICE). ICE is a private educational foundation that is working to reform middle school education. The first step taken was to create programs within these schools that run eight hours rather than four. This will improve the opportunities for students to learn and be prepared for the work force. The government also raised teacher’s salaries, while adding bonuses based on student performance.
The Pernambuco model is working, but it is far from perfect. There are still slums in the area, which obviously create lagoons of untreated sewage. But give the market a chance. Maybe someone will figure out how to change fetid untreated sewage into profit.
Anytime we have collaboration, the result will be positive. It appears the triunity in Brazil has found something that works. I think we can do the same thing here in this country. At least I hope we can.
And that is my thought for the day!