Micro-finance CEO Scofield discusses social entrepreneurship

Nov. 30, 2011, 2:25 a.m.
Micro-finance CEO Scofield discusses social entrepreneurship
Rupert Scofield, CEO of the microfinancing institution FINCA International, described his unique life path to aspiring entrepreneurs, encouraging them to follow their interests. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

President and CEO of FINCA International Rupert Scofield shared insights on social entrepreneurship Tuesday in a speech as part of a series of events hosted by the Graduate School of Business’s Public Management Program.


Scofield discussed the complexity of scaling social enterprises, the competitive landscape for social entrepreneurs and the future for micro-finance. Using his experience with FINCA International as an example, Scofield offered advice on how to be successful.


FINCA International is a nonprofit micro-financing institution that is based in Washington D.C. and operates in 21 countries. According to its website, the organization’s goal is “to provide financial services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs, so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living.”


“Don’t worry if your enterprise is small and not visible,” Scofield said. “If you keep doing the right thing, you will attract the right people to you.”


Scofield said that there is still “untapped potential [in] social business,” giving examples such as corporate shareholders demanding increased accountability for concerns other than greater financial profits, top universities launching social entrepreneurship programs and billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pledging to give away half of their fortunes to promising new charitable ideas, as they announced last year.


“Leave a little room in your life for magic,” Scofield added, referring to his own personal story.


Scofield said he discovered his passion for social entrepreneurship by chance when he offset his military draft to Vietnam to work in Guatemala with the Peace Corps. In Guatemala, he said he saw for the first time how a small amount of capital could have a huge impact relative to its size.


Later in life, after not being immediately hired after graduate school, he said he came across a flyer that eventually sent him to work in the Dominican Republic — with a co-worker who would eventually co-found FINCA with him.


“If I had gotten the jobs I had applied for, I would have been working for the necessity, rather than for my passion,” Scofield said.


The audience, mainly composed of those interested in pursuing social entrepreneurship, reacted positively to the talk. Several commented that they found Scofield inspiring and personally relatable. Others in the audience referenced having read Scofield’s recently published book, “The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook: How to Start, Build and Run a Business that Improves the World.”


“I wanted to know if money was better invested in micro-financing,” said Mira Gillet, an audience member who identified herself as an employee of World Vision, an evangelical relief and development organization that sponsors children in developing countries through dollar-a-day donations.


“I was impressed at his successes despite all the corruption in the field,” she added.


Scofield addressed this as part of his closing remarks.


“If all social enterprises were social enterprises not just in name but also in action, we could have the world we wanted,” he said. “As an individual, we may not have the resources to make an impact, but as an industry, we do.”

Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email [email protected].

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