Sunday, January 08, 2006

Social Entrepreneurship and Seafood

The article hyper-linked here came in today from a fellow crusader in White Mountain. That's up by Nome. To dispel the notion that Western Alaska villages are passe, this guy quotes Pythagoras. He is also developing a strategy for bridging the economies of Western Alaska and the Far East of the Russian Federation. How cool is that?

Flying around to Western Alaska villages: Dan Buckwalter and I made some rounds in his Cherokee for Village Missions in Homer.

Anyway, the gist of the article is probably summed up by one of the founders of Ben and Jerry's. An excerpt from the article: "He also created Catalytic Health, a for-profit company that still focuses on social responsibility. Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, an informal advisor to Catalytic Health, says, “The key to sustainable capitalism is reasonable profits as opposed to maximizing profits…. What you need to do is combine the sensibility of the social enterprise with the form of a for-profit business.”

Part of this article focuses on the support, or lack of, for social entrepreneurs. It takes a long time for people to get their minds around a new concept. There are solutions out there for a great number of problems we are faced with. I should know. I have been promoting my patented solution to the problem of lifting the infirm for almost seven years now. People like the Oregon Nurses Association call me up and say, "where's your chair." And all I can say is, "I just don't have the money to make them for you, and I know you don't have any, so we're kind of stuck aren't we."

Is what struck me about the article is it's relevance to the fledgling movement in the Alaska seafood industry to create Regional Seafood Development Associations. I blog about them all the time because I became convinced fifteen years ago that the concept is a better mousetrap for Alaska. The big Seattle-based fish processors in Alaska have had a colonial attitude, (and still do) that has precluded a partnering with fishermen for the betterment of the industry and the communities in Alaska. I even penned the white paper "Alaska Fisheries Renewal Campaign" (of which I found my original of yesterday) when I worked at the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

That "campaign" was finally picked up on by the Murkowski administration a couple of years ago after fishermen's incomes dropped to record lows. (I describe the history of these efforts and my "lone ranger" years on this concept in early blogs of mine. I was even persecuted by my Department for suggesting the idea. Of course, in the early '90s the big processors' lobbyist in Juneau was still threatening people's jobs if they didn't toe the company line. Certainly there is no such influence today.......)

The point is, are the processing profits excessive, fair, too low, or what? in comparison to fishermen's profit margins, including opportunity costs. Are fishery managers following a social conduct code of ethics? Are any ethical standards written down for the seafood industry version of capitalism? I suggest there is a lot lacking in the way the Alaska seafood industry conducts business and that the Alaska RSDAs are inherently designed to remedy the situation.

If you like Ben and Jerry's ice cream, you'll like the RSDAs.


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