Paul Baan: Social Venturing as a new tool for Peace and Stability
After the collapse of the wall in 1989 there was immediately the outcry for a peace dividend. Peace would be easier at hand. Defense would become cheaper and Carl von Clausewitz Prussian adagio that war was diplomacy with other means had to be abandoned. Diplomacy and development had to do by themselves. It led rather shortly to a dream!
This short history has taught us since then that more conflicts erupted in the world often within the borders of states. Above all terrorism added to a far more insecure world. We found new dilemmas: how to cope with unceasing conflicts. The traditional concept of blue helmets of the United Nations peacekeeping forces was not sufficient and the UN had to rely more often on military power and called for green helmets. Clear became also that adding to world wide security meant a fresh approach towards development. Neither the EU nor NATO nor the United Nations was really prepared. For example peacekeeping in the UN was the prerogative of the Security Council and development belonged to the specialized agencies that had no record of close cooperation and were not able to achieve it. The same for NATO. The staff was prepared to keep the peace but military assistance to enhance peace through reconstruction or instead halting preventive strikes by assisting in diplomacy and development was a different game.
Time and again it was proven that the military excelled in the use of new weapon systems and quick solutions but the basic truth that the wellbeing of the people in conflict thorn regions could preclude the use of military power was missing. Now advisors to the Pentagon as Thomas Barnett in his study ‘The Pentagon’s new map’ come up with new ideas about forming military units with a job for men and many women that take care of reconstruction and development besides the forces that wage war. But political decisions in that direction are not made. The Dutch minister of Development Aid, Mrs. Agnes van Ardenne, tells us that young people in developing countries have a greater longing for a job than for a Kalashnikov. Kofi Anan, the secretary general of the United Nations has also pointed out that a direct relationship exists between poverty, diseases, pollution in developing nations on the one hand and armed conflicts between states and in states itself, terrorism and international criminality, the existence of failing states and proliferation of chemical and nuclear arms on the other.
So the safety in the world, especially in this time of terrorism, is more and more interconnected and interdependent with the desires for food, clean water, education, fair prices for products of a population that wants to abandon lifelong poverty. Infighting of the well meaning development program directors and their workforce from the richer countries and of non governmental institutions, neglected coordination and rigid executions of plans without or with vague local ownership and unrelenting even stubborn mind setting also by the military and politicians become often the enemies from within!
Five years ago my wife and me founded the ‘Noaber Foundation’. We were struck by the great gap between the world of philanthropy and the business world. Both had a lot to offer but they did understand each other poorly. Just like the development agencies and the military and the reconstruction people. We did not have the lofty goal of a more secure world but thought that we could contribute to that end in a small way. Since then a number of different but related Noabership activities have started. (‘Noaber’ means neighbor in the sense of the Bible: “love your neighbor as yourself”, Luke 10:27). They strengthen each other and we searched for ‘added value’.
Experience taught us that innovation and entrepreneurship are both valuable. It is precisely that shared utilization of innovation and entrepreneurship by both the business world and the charity sector that combines those scarce and crucial resources. This produces a win-win approach that might be the ideal solution for opening new, shared prospects on the road to a more sustainable society. Kofi Anan tells us that,” many leaders are rising to the occasion with creative business models and initiatives that can help to improve the lives of under-privileged people. We need more such ideas and innovation.”
The Noaber Foundation is ready to modestly contribute to that end, which l comprehends in a way the goals of the World Security Network. It works as a very important tool to assist developing countries in developing themselves by promoting self-reliance and independence and so enlarging security. In our present global economy we are experiencing more and more the limitations of the existing role models between government, companies and the remaining civil society. New technologies and globalization shape rapidly new business opportunities as well as new social gaps. There is a strong urgency to innovate the rules of the game between the public and the private in a pro-active way. “Problems for the public and profits for the private” are no longer valid.
New models are needed and one of them is ‘social venturing’. It is still based on business and entrepreneurial principles but it goes far beyond today’s mainstream and shareholders-value approach. It seeks the long term: financial aspects combined with social ones in new business models. Social venturing combines the efficiency of business with the responsibility for the public domain. In the short time that we at our foundation are experiencing with social venturing we came to the conclusion that it is really becoming a ‘must’ for tomorrow’s world.
But in all sincerity there are still many bears on the road. The financial world is still hesitant and the tax authorities are not yet ready for it. But we are lucky to have achieved at least cooperation and full understanding in a new body called ‘Nyen-Road’, Cooperation for Social Venturing and Entrepreneurship. It consists of a group of well to do families in the Netherlands with a strong entrepreneurial background, ready to share experiences with social venturing. Some members of this group also established a professorship on Social Venturing at the international well-known business university of Nijenrode. Worldwide there are similar initiatives.
The Noaber Foundation until now supports specifically initiatives that bridge the gap between different groups of people and cultures by using information and communication technology, the core of our business endeavors in the past. It seeks an entrepreneurial-driven approach, for example by supporting and applying creative and new business models and providing start-up and venture capital. These investments aim to achieve social returns: one or more groups in society must benefit from these activities. By this approach we promote the multiplication of knowledge that increases people’s independence. The knowledge and experience gained by our programs are made available to all the people involved, as well to the organizations and businesses we work with.
The Noaber Foundation provides donations and investments. It chooses to work in the fields of technology, of education, culture and society and of health and healthcare. The activities are centered on profit, benefit and blended value. The foundation expects social and cultural returns from donations. The investments help to create innovative products and services. If financial returns are achieved then earnings are put back into new investments or donations.
This approach is rather new but we are of the opinion that it is the only way out. We must seek cooperation worldwide for this bold venture. Apart from the help via multinational organizations, development via programs from government to government, non-governmental organizations, there is something special to offer: past experience in business. Without also private efforts the world is doomed to remain poor and unstable. It is worth to reach out to work on a more secure world in a new way. All to the benefit of our children and those that with pride are ready together with us to take their fate in their own hands.