Last week in Berlin at a Forum on Social Entrepreneurship hosted by German venture capital company Hasso Plattner Ventures, Rael Lissoos and Dabba won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 award. The event, sponsored by Deutsches Bank and MAN brought together 250 social entrepreneurs together with investors.

This is great news for Dabba and by extension for the Village Telco. The concept of Social Entrepreneurship has recently had some push-back in the form of a critique of philanthrocapitalism called Just Another Emperor.  While the publication justly criticises the broad generalisation that non-profits should operate more like businesses, it seems clear to me that there is a lot of development mileage to be had from enterprises that operate on the principles of enlightened self-interest.

Equally, it seems clear to me that Open Source and Open Hardware offer a great intersection point between philanthropy and entrepreneurship.  By supporting the development of software and hardware that help Dabba operate their social enterprise but doing it via open licenses, we can lower the barrier to entry in a market which is dying for more competition.  Too often, donors make the mistake of funding an interesting pilot thinking that it would find sustainability once it got on its feet.  I certainly have been guilty of this often enough myself.  Sadly, more often than not, that initial funding, against all intention, creates a culture of dependence.

Philanthropists need to make it easy to do the right thing without doing the right thing.  We need to do more leading of horses to water and less making them drink 🙂

Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data