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What does Timor-Leste Transparency have to do with being a Social Enterprise?


August 26, 2011

Doug Hadden, VP Products

The Government of Timor-Leste has taken another step towards leading-edge government transparency with the launch of an eProcurement portal. The Timor-Leste transparency portal was first launched in March of this year with budget transparency. The World Bank has commended the government commitment of revenue transparency as the first country in Asia/Pacific to fully support and be certified for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

What does this mean for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? How does it align with being a social enterprise?

Real Social Responsibility

There is a debate about CSR. Critics suggest that CSR is fake, just feel-good marketing. Others see CSR as a cost with few benefits. My sense is that what we understand as CSR is maturing to something else. There is a significant difference between how social enterprises like FreeBalance approaches the world compared to companies who sell similar software.

For example, there is a well-known software company sponsoring a yacht in a famous yacht race. (FreeBalance sponsored a 5K run to raise money for cancer research). Another well-known company uses some social responsibility to purchase modern art. (FreeBalance collects art from children as SOS Children’s Villages). Why the difference? Social responsibility is at the core of what we do: helping country growth through improving governance.

Making a Difference as an Innovation Motivation

Umair Haque has made a strong case of meaningful and sustainable capitalism. Followers of his blog entries and twitter feeds often disagree with this notion. Yet, I see it almost every day at FreeBalance.

A colleague at a company I worked for previously confided in me: “what am I going to tell my grandchildren, that I helped insurance companies become more profitable?” Don’t get me wrong, my time with that company was rewarding. I learned a lot and made some lifelong friends. However, the motivation to innovate was intellectual. We didn’t internalize the angst of insurance company executives. Working long hours, as we often did, was not a cause of celebration. I rarely woke up at 3 in the morning with eureka moments. (Mostly nightmares.)

Yet at FreeBalance, we’re actually doing something meaningful. Our teams in Canada, Portugal and Timor-Leste worked around the clock. They did so because they believe that this contribution will have a cumulative effect in making the lives of the Timorese better. And, consequently, the world a better place.

Yes, but what about the Business?

Our transformation from a traditional software vendor to a For Profit Social Enterprise (FOPSE) has resulted in more profit and rapid growth relative to the industry. It seems to be superior to the traditional notion of “the business of business is business.”

And, it’s not because people are motivated to work harder – rather to work smarter.

What happened to that company I worked for? After a series of acquisitions, they are part of that software company that sponsors the yacht.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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