Altruism is not just for starry-eyed teenagers looking to change the world. It has become the balm of people who have become fed up with the pressures of society.
Studies claim that the propensity to help others, sometimes sacrificing self-interest, is an innate nature of people. It is therefore understandable why we feel better when we decide for the common good than when we accomplish something that gives us personal leverage.
When we think of doing good for others, the first thing that comes to mind would be the charity drives of welfare institutions. They collect donations, monetary and in-kind, then hand them out to families who suffered from disasters. However, the impact of this kind of help is only temporary. Yes, people victimized by floods, fire, or even war would immediately need food, shelter, and clothing. But a more lasting initiative would be to help a community regain or augment their income.
So if you are planning to start a project next year for people at the margins, consider setting up a community enterprise. Although starting a business would seem too large, don’t take it onto yourself entirely. Think of the community as a partner instead of a beneficiary. That way, you would all be working on it. Here are the basic steps you would need to work out with them.
Forming an organization
First of all, they need to be organized so that they don’t separately bring individual interests to the table. There are other pragmatic benefits of getting the community organized. An organization or association would assure that they would work for unities on any decision they need to make. Additionally, since they would be following rules that the organization would make, there is a level of responsibility for members and accountability of leaders.
Help them set their by-laws and financial rules while they are still putting themselves together. They could opt to change these once they start functioning as an organization, and they see the appropriateness of these rules.
Connect them with legal experts
They would need knowledge of the legal side of doing business. Find them a good business lawyer so that they will know the in and outs of employee rights, consumer rights, and other matters that they might encounter further in their operations. You could find pro bono lawyers, but the new organization could also set a system to collect some amount from members they could use to consult or hire experts. Or you could bring them to funding institutions that could provide some start-up amount for organizations like them.
Doing market research
Next on the list is market research. Opening an enterprise should always be backed with studies. It could be that the investment risk is low compared to other micro or small businesses, but still, the failure of an initiative would mean money lost for this underprivileged community. That small amount of money could mean a lot to them. If they already have a product in mind, help them do a feasibility study if it would sell.
Help with marketing
Guide them with basic marketing strategies like introducing them to online platforms where they could advertise for free. The start doesn’t have to be an elaborate marketing campaign. What you would need at this juncture would be to establish a frequent set of buyers to sustain production. You could connect them with establishments where they could display their products or provide consignments.
You may not be capable of walking with the community through everything on this list. But at least show them what they need. You could invite your friends to collaborate with you, encourage them to think of this as their way of giving back for all the positive things they have enjoyed in their lives.