Economics as the most beautiful of all arts: creative design that opens up a viable economic perspective.
"Our true illiteracy is the inability to be creatively creative," said Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Our imagination, our ideas, the combination of thoughts are unlimited. So far, there is no evidence that there are limits to our creativity.
Of all living beings, only human beings have creative potential. Today we need it more urgently than ever, because a continuation of the current development threatens to lead us into catastrophe.
The most elegant way out of the catastrophe can be shown to us by the force that got us into it in the first place: the economy. For me, it has the potential to be the most beautiful of all arts: creative design that fits the place, time and person and opens up a sustainable, lasting economic perspective. Bringing an idea-child into the world. One that is not only the pride of the parents, but can be useful to society and that attracts attention through good and inexpensive products. And last but not least, one that does not exacerbate existing problems but contributes to new and better solutions through broader participation in an entrepreneurial way.
Even now, there is an area of entrepreneurial activity in which both the values that apply and the people who act are recognizably different from those in conventional business. I am talking about the field of social entrepreneurship.
The idea of using entrepreneurial thinking and action without associating it with profit maximization is meeting with great interest and approval worldwide. The positive values of entrepreneurship - achieving goals, organizing practically efficiently, using financial resources sparingly - are affirmed, but without taking on the ballast of profit maximization. Something like Richard Branson and Mother Teresa in one person. We need - according to the basic idea of social entrepreneurship - people who find and implement new answers to complex social problems with entrepreneurial spirit.
Only at a superficial glance does it seem that the unconventional, the creative, the artistic people cannot be inspired by economics. On closer inspection, this is not necessarily true. The popularity that social entrepreneurship has gained recently suggests that interest in and understanding of entrepreneurship is growing, but the forms and ways of thinking of conventional economics are being rejected. We are witnessing here an affirmation of the entrepreneurial spiritfor the solution of social problems.
One of the main characteristics of social entrepreneurship so far is that it operates in areas that lie outside the core field of economics. A social concern is understood to be the commitment to the disadvantaged and groups on the margins of society. Let us now think of the social entrepreneur as someone who no longer intervenes in the economy at the margins of society, but at its core. His concern to provide social impetus, to help people, remains - and his commitment can thus benefit everyone. He can expand his radius of action and thus strengthen his impact. As a social entrepreneur for all, he fulfills the task that we describe as citizen entrepreneurship.
Such a task can draw on a long tradition. In part, the cooperative movement had always made it its task to provide its members with good products, beyond the otherwise prevailing strict profit mentality with its negative effects on products and people. When we think of attacking the inflated prices of brands, for example, we should keep this tradition in mind.
Social entrepreneurs are predestined to think and test possibilities beyond profit maximization - and to find more compatible business models. The idea of car sharing, for example, can be traced back to the fact that a few socially committed nonconformists developed a sense that the majority idea of a car-oriented city was neither intelligent nor sustainable. While economists professionally trained in efficiency are not bothered by the fact that automobiles spend 90 percent of their existence in park and rust mode, a handful of dissenters in Amsterdam in the 1960s began experimenting with how mobility could work without owning an automobile.
Today, the social pressure comes from technical progress and changes in ecological conditions. The previously successful ways of looking at things no longer fit into the landscape. To increase profits - according to the old thinking - you need higher sales, i.e. quantitative growth. Profit maximization as the overriding postulate sees the protection of the environment as a secondary goal at best, and even makes it appear as a cost of a company that stands in the way of maximizing profit. Lip service does not remove this contradiction from the table. There is no turning away from growth and profit maximization in sight.
Incumbents will not stop creating artificial shortages. Nor will they abandon their brand strategies and bring product prices closer to manufacturing costs. They will remain as Goliaths on the battlefield. If we want to change this, we ourselves must act as Davids, as entrepreneurs. Must offer alternatives that challenge the Goliaths for economic power.
These alternatives do exist. And where they do not yet exist, it is realistic to create them: Entrepreneurship today, unlike in the past, is accessible to everyone. The development of our society is in line with our concerns. In the knowledge society, economic opportunities are being redistributed; capital is no longer the bottleneck, nor is access to knowledge. In an economy based on a high division of labor, we can draw on components that allow us to act professionally and on an equal footing with the big players right from the start.
All the elements mentioned here are already present in practice. We can look at small and larger examples to see how they work. What matters now is to implement this movement, which can already be seen in its beginnings, on a large scale.
Entrepreneurship for the many, not the few. We are fighting to fulfill a dream of humanity. Nothing less than that.
As David against Goliath.
Small is beautiful - but if we recognize the historic opportunity and seize it, it becomes: Small is powerful.