The idea that responsible travelers can and should support social enterprises on the road is a fundamental notion to this entire site, and to the book I published in 2012, The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook. But for those unfamiliar with the term social enterprise, let’s examine what it means and how this type of travel often affects more change than traditional forms of service like international volunteering.
Social Enterprise: A social enterprise sells good or services and uses a portion of the profits to reinvest in the local community by addressing social issues, improving locals’ quality of life, conserving natural resources and the environment, preserving the community’s cultural integrity, and more. The social enterprise holds its strong underlying mission above financial gain, investors, or traditional commercial business ideals. Instead, the common good is the primary focus and when a social enterprise succeeds, so to does the local society.
This is my definition, but there are a lot of others that offer nuance and highlight different facets of the social enterprise concept (the Wikipedia page has a long look at all of those other circumstances). This definition is simplest to relate social enterprise and travel. And in relating this back to travel, since 2008 I have slowly traveled and volunteered all over the world. And on these travels I came to understand that it is often the mere act of tourism and community-level support in developing nations that has the largest positive impact on the people in these places I visited — even more than volunteering.
Within the context of traveling to a developing country, spending your tourism dollars at social enterprises has a strong positive impact on that community because these are, by their very nature, community driven initiatives that most often use local ideas and labor to solve a social problem.
As we travel, we spend money on everything from food to tours — with accommodation, souvenirs, and transportation in between. What if each time we ventured out of the country we found a way leave our tourism dollars in the hands of local working hard to better their community and country?
Examples of businesses and services that may operate as a social enterprise in a place you are visiting include:
This list is far from comprehensive, and it varies greatly depending on the city you’re visiting. But the fact is, you have a choice when you travel of where you invest your money. Though it is unlikely you can only support social enterprises, you can prioritize these businesses when given the opportunity. If you’re going to sleep somewhere, why not find the business best supporting your ideals of socially responsible travel. It’s on each travel to make the time and effort to research the local businesses finding creative ways to advance social, environmental, and human justice agendas.
Here on Grassroots Volunteering, we offer the world’s largest database of social enterprises and local organizations . These local organizations are community-driven and truly using tourism as a force for good.
Other ways to travel responsibly and support social enterprises while on the road include:
The bottom line is that you can spend your tourism dollars wisely and invest it in local communities rather than Western-run companies or large for-profit businesses run by the region’s wealthy elite. All it takes is a planning, research, and motivation.
And if you find a wonderful social enterprise on your travels, we would love to know about it so that we can add it to our database and send other travels to support its efforts!
This post was last modified on October 15, 2017, 6:22 pm