Responding the Nation’s Problem with Entrepreneurship

By: Bambang Ismawan (Bina Swadaya Foundations founder)

Entrepreneur according to Oxford dictionary: ”A person who undertakes an entreprise or business, with the chance of profit or loss”.   Entrepreneur can be grouped into two groups, namely business entrepreneur and social entrepreneur. The main difference between the two group lies on profit use. For  business entrepreneur the profit gained will be used for business expansion, whereas for social entrepreneur the profit gained (partially or entirely) will be re-invested on the “risk society” empowerment. However,  in global trend such dichotomy is getting more vague because they (business entrepreneur and social entrepreneur) actually talk in the same language. ”We talk in the same language: innovation, management, effectiveness, quality and competence” (Fred Hehuwat, 2007).

Entering Industrial Revolution, business entrepreneurs have become the lead in the world changes, not only in economy and industry scopes but also in society life sector.

Meanwhile, in the last three decades the social entrepreneurs have given very much contribution to social development in society. Such as: Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank), Peter Eiger (Transparency International, Germany), Alice Tepper-Marlin (Social Accouantability, U.S), and  Bill Drayton (Ashoka Foundations, U.S). Besides,  more business entrepreneurs concern on society empowerment program. They not merely conduct corporate social responsibility in narrow scope, but they are also motivated to carry out society empowerment in the wider scope. They act in a number of society empowerment programs including economy, education and culture, health, infrastructure or life environment sectors.

With their spirit, entrepreneurs may change society or even the world. Following examples prove that matter.

First, Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931), when he was 22 years old, he invented Telegraph, and some years later he invented the first light bulb which can light until 40 hours. He continuously worked until he reached 84 years old and resulted approximately 1,300 patents under his name, and also marketed most of his products. The company incorporated to market his products is known bearing name General Electric (GE). GE is the US’ no.5 company and the World’s No. 9 company which employs approximately 325,000 employees.

Second, Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank’s founder and holder of peace noble in 2006 from Bangladesh. This Economist , who was graduated from Vanderbilt  University in the U.S, is very hurted with massive poverty in his country,  meanwhile economics theories he learned cannot overcome the poverty related problem. Finally, he directly disbursed loan of US$ 27 to 42 peasants and  handycraft makers. This effort then developed became the most outstanding village finance agency in the world. Its finance service model developed has been replicated in 58 countries. Such finance agency is known as Grameen Bank (village bank) whih now serves about 7 million persons (7.309.335 per September 30, 2007) and majority (97 %) are women. Total outstanding credit is US$ 500,67 million and repayment level 98,40 %. Yunus’ work proved that poor people or micro entrepreneur (economically active poor) is bankable.

Bina Swadaya Entrepreneruship

Bina Swadaya is society empowerment foundation which was founded on May 24, 1967 by a number of pancasila Farmers Association Activist (IPP) who was called on to empower poor people and marginalized. Bina Swadaya attempted to become independent and consistent society empowerment foundation, and come into its existence contextually. Independent means appearance of spirit and intention to build and maintain financial independence without relying on financial institution assistance.  Consistent is proved with continuously maintaining vision – mission of poor people or marginalized society empowerment. Contextual means exist to respond needs and anticipate challenge and chance.

Bina Swadaya movement is briefly described in three era or period as follows:

First, Pancasila Social Movement Era (1954 – 1973). old order era struggle characteristic was mainstreaming development for poor people empowerment.

Second, Socio Economy Development Foundation Era (1974 – 1998). Bina Swadaya positioned as Socio Economy Development Foundation with social laboratory development approach and partnered up with various society empowerment foundations, either government or private, domestic and overseas.

Third, Social Enterpreneurship Era (KS), 1999 – present. It is marked with many reformation demands,  democratization and regional autonomy. In this era Bina Swadaya secure its position as social entrepreneurship organization which develops society empowerment by synchronizing independence financially.

Now, Bina Swadaya engages in 7 field of activities, namely: (1) citizen society empowerment (Education and training center, study center, Consultant Bina Swadaya, and Regional Force); (2) Micro Finance Development (Society Credit Bank and Micro Finance Service Branch Office); (3) Development communication (Trubus magazine, non food agriculture books, language, health,  skill, education, life style, lifestyle, properties, and story books including book and magazine marketing service; (4) Printing service; (5) Agribusiness development through agriculture store; (6) alternative tourism; (7) accommodation service for meeting, training, workshop and seminar.

Entrepreneurship as solution

As explained above, Bina Swadaya appear to cope with society powerlessness related problem. Powerlessness can be formulated as poverty, stupidity and left behind socity. Society powerlessness is multi-dimension problem and never ended from the earth. Causes of Indonesian society powerlessness can be traced from some factors:  (1) colonialization inheritage; (2) unstable administration; (3) Reliance trap; (4) Big currency devaluation; (5) corruption, collusion, and nepotism; (6) natural disaster and social disaster (horizontal conflict riot ) and; (7) environmental damage.

Meanwhile Muhammad Yunus sees one of sources of porverty problem in Bangladesh is social instability. And then he concluded, “To overcome more social unfairness, social entrepreneurship is the answer”.

Based upon entrepreneurship spirit, Bina Swadaya develops three approaches: (1) independent society agency development  that is society empowerment group (KSM), (2) micro finance service through bank and non bank institution, (3) various product development to increase business and society income  through press. (4) to improvise sustainable Society Empowerment Movement with establishment and development cooperation between Receiving Mechanism,Delivery Mechanism, and Service Provider, and struggle conducive government policy.

With fast information technology enhancement, the society can easily access information required to develop prospective business sectors. With carefulness and creativity and grounded with strong determination, then efforts to become entrepreneur will be easily reached. Good luck.