UPDATE: That article is now online at the CMS website under “Mission and the Fourth Sector”.
ORIGINAL: I just wrote an article about Co-operatives and social enterprises for a missions publication. I made reference to our new venture – The Old Sorting Room – which we will launch in a few months and which can only be described as our monastic-inspired cooperative-run social-enterprise micro-business fourth-sector for-benefit organisation. For lack of a better word. Or lack of any word at all that describes it.
Fourth sector is a newish word that appeared on the radar last year after New York Times ran a piece entitled “Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World. The fourth sector is a word used to describe the new organisations that straddle the line between government, business and charity. I have been exploring the idea of the fourth sector and missions, since this blurring of boundaries has been a common thread in the missions world for a long time.
I believe the ideas put forward in the 1850’s by Henry Venn of the Church Missionary Society on the kind of economic structures necessary for Sierra Leone to be self supporting were indicative of the first known cooperative of the 1840’s in Rochdale as well as cooperatives in general since that time. Venn’s suggestions included directives for 1) credit unions, 2) social welfare organisations, 3) micro-business enterprise for production, 4) fair trade and product distribution through a cooperative store and 5) resources for training and education. He uses different words but the concepts are the same. Without financial sustainability, his goal of the “euthanasia of the mission” would not be possible.
I also think the International Missionary Conference in Tambaram, Madras in 1938 landed on the right place (cooperative living and cooperative business ventures like Kagawa’s Christian Co-operative movement in Japan) as an answer to the economic issues of mission when Western money was drying up and foreign mission structures were suspect.
Anyway, I will put up a link when the article is published. In the meantime, here are some links to articles on the subject.
Open Teams and the Entrepreneurial Organization
Businesses Try to Save Money and the World (PDF)
Mixing Mission and Business: Does Social Enterprise Need A New Legal Approach? Highlights from an Aspen Institute Roundtable by Thomas J. Billitteri
FourthSector.net on For Benefit Organizations
RobbintheRich has some links.
Fourth Sector (PDF) article from Danish perspective
William Shutkin asks if the fourth sector is not a new specis of capitalism in The New Evolved Capitalism.
I also bought a few books on Kagawa of Japan to research his use of Christian Co-operatives.