Monday, March 9, 2009

The Toilet post

This smart and beautiful 11 year-old girl is Funke, who helps her mom after school collecting money at the DMT Toilet site near the Ojudu Berger bus stop. I met her last week after reading this NY Times article, which had me thinking a lot about different models for social change.

Public toilets in Nigeria? Yes indeed. DMT and its founder Isaac Durojaiye are doing it, and they've gotten much-deserved attention in the social entrepreneurship blogs I've been reading lately. What great work this company is doing -- creating jobs for young people like Funke while also providing a public service in a place like Lagos, where it is even harder to find a public toilet than in New York. (And where there are no Starbucks or Barnes & Nobles to fall back on.)

The Times piece does a decent job of describing the very interesting debate that is raging in social justice circles: whether the world's problems can better be solved through a non-profit organization or a for-profit business. "Social entrepreneurship," which usually implies a for-profit model, is very fashionable right now, but don't all successful businesses fill some social need: otherwise they would not be successful? What makes a company like DMT more worthy of commendation than, for example, Tiechang, the Chinese company that makes the cheap ($500) motorcycles Nigerians use for so much transport?

Interesting stuff. I'm not one to go against Nobel laureate Mohammed Yunnis, who has weighed in very persuasively against the for-profit model, at least when it comes to microfinance. But I doubt that Funke cares one way or the other -- she's got more important things to worry about.

No comments:

Post a Comment