Does the one-for-one social enterprise model paper over the cracks?
Thursday, August 16, 2012
The one-for-one social enterprise model has caught on in recent years for obvious reasons. Critics have long attacked traditional international aid with its donations to poorer countries as ineffective, condescending and creating a culture of dependence.
In an era where social media opens a window into regions away from our computers and smartphones, people want assurance that the money they choose to donate will be put to good use. The $10 text-to-Haiti model made mobile telephone customers feel helpful but there was little evidence of its effectiveness other than the line item on the monthly wireless bill.
Enter the one-for-one model, which has caught fire in recent years thanks to Toms Shoes of Santa Monica, California. Blake Mycoskie launched the company after a 2006 trip to Argentina, where he witnessed the hardships of children who grew up barefoot. He returned a year later with 10,000 pairs of new shoes for children, and a company, and movement, were born.
Since 2010 the company has given away more than 1m pairs of shoes in 40 countries. The premise is simple: customers buy a pair of shoes and a pair of shoes are then given to a child in need. Now the company has ventured into eyewear. For each pair of glasses purchased, someone else receives a pair of prescription glasses or medical care that improves his or her sight.