Mixing profit and altruism, the Peter Salmon way

Peter Salmon is doing good and being paid for it; his hybrid programmes combine all the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs with social aims of do-gooders.

We think of entrepreneurs as motivated by money. We think of philanthropists as motivated by doing good.

Peter SalmonCan you be moved by both, at the same time? Yes, reckons Peter Salmon.

He is an entrepreneur, no doubt. The founder of successful Wellington design company Moxie is used to sending invoices – to corporate clients such as Coca-Cola – that you and I would find sphincter-tightening.

But these days Salmon is also working with the underprivileged in Mexico, developing a palliative care programme and a workshop for disabled workers.

Philanthropy? No, he’s being paid for that too. Salmon’s consulting business Fische is employed to assist social entrepreneurs realise their dreams, and to find ways to be paid for doing so. Sometimes that money comes from government but primarily it’s from industry or the market itself.

“The Mexican government just doesn’t have enough money to pay for the kind of social services we have, so they need more innovative approaches,” he says.

Salmon’s hybrid programmes combine all the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs with social aims of do-gooders.

Take the disabled workshop. Funded by a wealthy property developer, Salmon is consulting with government agencies, local families, social workers and the design community to create a workshop that’s intended to employ disabled workers to produce goods to be sold on the open market.

In another project, Salmon has connected a highly motivated health worker with a pharmaceutical company, in order to provide palliative care to terminal patients.

“The medical system is horribly under- funded and there’s simply no ability to offer palliative care, so the two have found a way to make it happen that benefits the patients and company.”

The drug company provides high-quality medicines at low cost in exchange for PR and promotion into the local health system.

Salmon says his role in all this is “modest”. A former designer and marketer, he has created a methodology for developing the business plans for the entrepreneurs.

Called NextPlays, the approach divides business planning into three stages: ‘discover’ (identifies the needs, sources of funding, potential markets), ‘generate’ (creates solutions) and ‘prototype’.

Fische has been hired to train 10 Mexican social entrepreneurs by US-based Ashoka, a global network of social entrepreneurs. Further opportunities are opening up in Bolvia, the US and ironically, the US and the UK.

“The GFC has dealt a blow to governments and they’re being forced to look at new ways to deliver welfare and health systems. The UK is probably the most advanced with David Cameron’s idea of the ‘Big Society’.

“No-one’s quite sure what that means but that’s why we need tools to innovate and find new approaches to old problems.”

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