Volunteerism vs. Entrepreneurship

There aren’t enough good things to be said about young people doing voluntary work in areas of the world where educational and competency resources are scares. Volunteers help build schools in Costa Rica, they teach children and young people how to read and write in India and they help build NGO’s in South Africa. Further more they are motivated, able and make it possible for good projects to be realised because they do not require a big overhead.

For many volunteers it is a experience of a lifetime and expands not only their personal understanding of how the world works but also gives a opportunity to contribute in a very real way. In short volunteers makes a real difference for people for very real people.

However, when it comes to the development of a flourishing private sector, economic growth and sustainable development there is no substitute for the entrepreneur. To some extend the entrepreneur is competing against the volunteer at least this can be the case in some sectors. For instance when it comes to education there can be competition in the areas of higher education and specialised courses that could prevent higher quality firms involved in education creating a sustainable business platform. Or when takes up cleaning and reconstruction it could mean the “creative destruction” that Schumpeter talks about never happens simply because of the hit-and-run nature of volunteering.

I write this not to put down volunteering it is just stating a fact that if you compete against zero wages and zero profit you will almost certainly loose as a up and coming small business. So while we hail the volunteer we might consider that by doing good now one might be doing harm in the long-term separating people and society from creating and shaping their own future.

It is the nature of the entrepreneur to take a chance and to some extend take in a significant risk in order to gain first-mover advantage and maybe conquer a whole market. This risk is that the entrepreneur will loose everything that is invested in the project, but that is at the very hearth. In that way she or he is at the very front of what society needs in order to grow. Believing in something, taking a risk in order to accomplish the goal and harvesting the fruits of the hard work. And by doing that he or she is creating jobs, paying tax, creating new markets and innovating society.

As part of the analysis that any would be business creator will do is to evaluate if there is a market the product that might be introduced. The analysis will state if the market is either open for more competition or if it is saturated, if it possible to create a business model that can be scaled up or if it is a small business will continue to be small. A true game changer in that analysis would be if volunteering is part of business model used. For most, if not all entrepreneurs it would mean that he or she would find other places or other products to launch simply because you cant compete against zero wage and zero profit.



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