Credit: CARE UK / Kathryn Richards

Credit: CARE UK / Kathryn Richards

CARE International and JITA are working to help poor rural women in Bangladesh earn a livelihood by selling consumer products to their neighbors.  Is this social entrepreneurship at its best– or is it “dancing with the devil” insofar as it helps multinational companies continue to sell non-essential goods with irresponsible or unethical marketing techniques?

Referencing the possibility of unintended consequences, the moderator voiced a concern that “in the West is that actually we’ve come to represent ourselves with our materialism, and we’ve gone too far in that direction.”

However, Linda Scott and Catherine Dolan of Said Business School have been part of a team studying Care’s programming in Bangladesh since 2008, and Linda reports that benefits for women are “surprising and powerful” — particularly relating to “gender empowerment.”

The moderator asked Bob Crawford, Business Development Director at Unilever, to define the core value he sees in this model– is it about reaching more customers, or encouraging healthier lives and livelihoods?  Unsurprisingly, Crawford collapsed the binary and acknowledged that both outcomes are a ‘win’ for a company like Unilever.

Discussing the emergence of JITA— a for-profit business– from within CARE’s non-profit model, Asif Uddin was unequivocal: “If we are going to engage with the two or three billion people who are left out of the world’s future, we have a responsibility to engage with the private sector.”