For-Profit Activism: Change We Can Profit From

The Economist, print edition; January 29, 2009.

Never heard of a Carrotmob? You’re about to. Carrotmobs are beginning to crop up for a cause, thanks to two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have turned to activist campaigning as the next start-up industry.

The Economist reports that Brent Schulkin and Steve Newcomb’s company, Virgance, plans to profit from organising campaigns for change. The company builds campaigns by recruiting volunteers and creating an on-line presence through paying bloggers and producing YouTube videos promoting the campaign. For example, their campaign ‘One Block Off the Grid’ (IBOG) encourages homeowners to switch to solar energy by getting together with their residential blocks to build a buying club. Virgance earns a slice of the energy bill discount negotiated with cleantech providers as they bring in new customers.

Now, in its new ‘Carrotmob’ venture, Virgance recruits shoppers and organises a competition between shops to be the greenest. The winning shop is then inundated by crowds of activists galvanised by the campaign — the ‘Carrotmob.’ Virgance earns its profit through paid sponsorship from participating shops looking for green-related marketing and branding opportunities. Even though Virgance is not the first professional campaign organiser, The Economist uses them as an example of a social impact organisation that chose to structure as a for-profit. It says the founders’ choice to structure this way enables the company to achieve greater social impact by working with market forces rather than relying on donors. Keep an eye out for Carrotmobs in shops near you.

For the complete article see: www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13031214

Other articles in this issue

Comments are closed.