Social Business is a new journal launched in 2011 that seeks to provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge, experience, insights and ideas about the theory and practice of social business.
While the notion of 'social business' is central to all the world's great philosophies, its application and implementation has been overshadowed since the Industrial Revolution of the mid-Eighteenth century by theories of competition and what has come to be known as 'Anglo-Saxon' capitalism. It has become clear that, while this approach has brought many benefits to affluent western style economies, it is unsuited to two thirds of the world's population who survive at the bottom, or Tier 4, of the world economic pyramid. The need for an alternative business model became increasingly apparent during the second half of the 20th century and was widely aired in leading business publications such as the Harvard Business Review and Business Week as well as a number of books such as Sen's Development as Freedom and de Soto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else.
The revival of interest in social business has been led by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus who, in his book, Building Social Business, calls for a new dimension for capitalism as an approach for "harnessing the energy of profit-making to the objective of fulfilling human needs," and creating "self-supporting, viable commercial enterprises that generate economic growth even as they produce goods and services that make the world a better place."
Although Prof Yunus has a preferred model of social business as a 'non-loss non-dividend company', in his writing he recognises that there are many approaches towards addressing the same problem. This I would summarise as the "elimination of poverty and enhancement of human welfare". The proposed journal is intended to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience between academics and practitioners working towards this goal.
While the basic objective of social business is easily stated, its achievement calls for a radical re-appraisal of our ideas for the conduct of profitable business from top down to bottom up. And, in doing so, it brings into sharp relief many of the issues that confront global society as we move into the twenty first century.
Among these the issues that Social Business wishes to address include:
Clearly, these issues go well beyond the scope of any single discipline. As such the ambition of SB is to attract contributions from scholars who perceive the opportunity to apply their work to critical issues facing modern society. In his seminal work, Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers identifies nine distinct research traditions all of which are concerned with the initiation of change through innovation and the diffusion/adoption of that innovation. In addressing the nature of research paradigms and invisible colleges he comments "Of the many alternative directions that a research project might pursue, a paradigm structures a researcher into one general approach. Thus, the paradigm, and the invisible College of scientists who have followed the paradigm, provide a researcher with security and stability in the uncertain world of an active research front." (p46)
Usually, this "security and stability" is achieved by working within a given discipline and context. However, such an approach may frustrate the diffusion of ideas between proponents of a particular subfield of enquiry and so miss out on the synergistic benefits of such exchange. It may also discourage critical discourse. The aim of Social Business is to overcome these potential deficiencies through encouraging contributions from persons working in different disciplines and contexts who are already actively researching and publishing in works specific to their chosen sub-field or discipline.
SB also seeks to attract contributions from practitioners enthusiastically engaged in embracing the challenge of a 'new' orientation to business and the development of effective strategies for integrating this into their ongoing and future operations. Companies such as Nirma and Hindustan Lever Ltd in India or Grameen Bank, Danone and Veolia Water in Bangladesh exemplify organisations that have successfully achieved this. However, irrespective of their origin or theme, all papers will be required to show how they contribute to the overall objective of social business which is to eliminate poverty and increase human welfare.
Recognising that the academic and practitioner communities are subject to differing criteria in the evaluation of their work, Social Business has adopted a two tier editorial structure. While the Editor will exercise overall control over the acceptance and publication of material he will do so on the advice of two sub-boards - a Management Advisory Board comprising senior practitioners whose organisations are actively involved in social business, and an Academic Editorial Board which will oversee a double blind peer review process for the selection of academic papers. The latter will be headed by a team of Associate Editors, each of whom will be an acknowledged expert on the theme or sub-field for which they are responsible, supported by experienced academic reviewers.
Social Business seeks to attract contributions of two types:
(An extended description of both kinds of contribution together with Guidelines for the preparation and submission of papers may be found on the Guidelines for Authors pages on this site).
Given its proposed scope SB will appeal to a wide but sophisticated audience of decision makers in both the public and private sector. It will also be essential reading for scholars and students in the increasing number of educational institutions that are including aspects of social business and related issues in their curricula.
Initially, SB will appear quarterly in issues of around 100 pages comprising between 5 and 6 papers. Thereafter the frequency of publication will be increased as necessary to ensure the timely publication of material that has succeeded in the review process. It is also hoped to attract proposals for Special Issues under Guest Editorship to publicise particular themes and the content of events such as academic and practitioner conferences. In addition to such papers the journal will also publish Book Reviews, Commentaries and Reports.
Michael J Baker