Social business can combine passion and sustainability


Artists and culture producers are moved by their passion to share and inspire. In a rapidly moving world, flooded with images and messages, artists create and present unique points of views through their creative representations. They are the social commentators, without a prefabricated agenda or a sales pitch.

Artworks enlighten us, each in our own individual way. We, as a society, rely on artists to challenge us, widen our horizons, look at the other and reflect back within ourselves. In the art market, where expression, intuition, social interpretation and creativity are the driving forces, capitalism falls short of encompassing people’s multiple interests. Free-market theory suffers from “conceptualization failure,” not capturing the full essence of being human.

We are motivated by more than money. The best contribution an individual can make is not to have more, but to do more.

Social business is created with one goal: to solve or alleviate a social problem. In the continuously growing and maturing arts scene in our home town, Miami becomes the ideal landscape to develop a social business aimed at helping artists continue their creative work, while developing a financially sustainable future for themselves.

Artists are moved by a need to explore, create and share. Social business is created from an intrinsic human need for a better world. An arts-focused social business that support artists’ careers creates a level playing field for cultural growth.

A social business, as defined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, is proposed as a visionary new model for business to maximize their social impact. It does not intend to take the place of either profit-maximizing businesses or not-for-profit organizations, but to bridge the gap between the two, creating an alternative model for businesses under which to operate.

Built to address a social problem, it can be applied to any industry. Any profit earned is turned back into the business to expand its reach. Investors’ dividends come in the form of social responsibility.

Capitalism assumes that human interest is unilateral, and people are motivated solely by increasing revenue streams. This narrow view pushes profit-maximizing companies to think about their bottom lines, regardless of the social and environmental affects that they may have. The trend of social entrepreneurship is leading companies to view their impacts in the communities in which they operate and also in the world at large. Too often, however, no matter how significant the impacts and the great PR that companies receive, profit trumps social business in the end.

Not-for-profits, on the other end, are built on a vision of a better world. They are based on people’s goodwill and belief that the work they do means more than periods and commas on a bank statement. These organizations depend on generous donations from foundations, philanthropists and volunteers.

Still, as grants and donations allow these organizations to thrive for social justice, the perpetual need for securing these funds becomes a cycle, where working on a social cause becomes second to securing resources for continuing work.

The current art market has numerous examples of commercial businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

None of them are to be discredited. It is a complex market with a huge economic impact, generating direct and indirect revenues, as well as elevating the quality of life in its community.

As an open and evolving arena, Miami serves as a launching pad for social business in the arts. Its addition combines the passion of artists and cultural producers, with the care and devotion of patrons and supporters to increase creative production. It is a symbiotic relationship.

Ananda Demello, based in Miami, is the curator and cultural producer for Art Habit, a social business that provides support to artists and art making.