TedTalks: How Can We Use a Business Model to Tackle Social Problems?

Name of person giving the talk: Michael Porter

Title of the talk: Why Business Can Be Good at Solving Social Problems

Summary of the talk: Michael Porter is a business school professor who discusses how our current view of business impacts social problems. Currently, we tend to assume that NGOs, the government, and non-profits are going to solve everything while businesses are the bad guys and continue to make tons of money. The problem with that is these non-profits usually don’t have the resources to make their solutions scalable. They often lack the money and staffing needed to turn a small idea into a larger one. Businesses, on the other hand, are where all of our resources come from since they create the profits that help projects become self-sustaining.

Michael Porter suggests that we change our view and look to businesses as our solution to social problems. He speaks of a few different companies who have changed their work model to help conserve water and reduce the number of trees that are cut down. It’s companies like this that are using their profits, and profiting more, by solving social problems and looking at things from a different perspective. To do this, though, first we must change how businesses see themselves and change how others see business. We need to create partnerships between non-profits and corporations to focus on solving social problems instead of just trying to profit from them.

What I learned: This talk was a good reminder of the importance of collaboration. If we truly want to make a difference, strong partnerships are required that link multiple skills together to combat one issue. It makes perfect sense to me that we would utilize a business model to create self-sustatining solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. However, I also agree that it could be difficult to change our current view of the business world, especially in America. Many large corporations are demonized (and often for good reason). We will need a visible change in our companies to change our view of them.

Despite this, we must all work together to provide self-sustaining solutions to our world’s social problems. One by one, it is my hope that companies will start to use their power for good, not just for profit. Many already have. So, please sit and think about the question I’m about to ask. When you have an answer, respond in the comments below. Hopefully this can spark some really good discussion!¬†How can you (or your business) work towards changing a social problem?

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