Monday, March 31, 2008

The Community and Social Benefit Accounting

Dear Colleagues

I was recently asked what is Community Centric Sustainable Development (CCSD) by an Internet network friend. He was concerned that these are fashionable words, with perhaps little meaning. This was my response.
Dear Friend (name supressed)

Good question.

As you are well aware "Community Centric" has become fashionable, together with a lot of other phrases like "Bottom of the Pyramid" ... and ideas like microcredit, social business, corporate social reponsibility, sustainability ... and so on.

I watched a community in West Africa get transformed by a small FAO project years ago ... a small amount of money that created value that was "priceless". I tried to write this up under the theme "The dynamic of development" in the late 1980s, and though the essay, went nowhere, the idea has stayed with me. I saw other variants around the world in Africa, Latin America, South and Central Asia ... and then a few years back now, an Indian colleague reminded me that it was only a community centric approach to development that would ever be sustainable ... development starts with the community, and the actors are located in concentric circles around the community center.

But he went on that talking about community centric is not enough ... there has to be understanding and commitment to the community ... something that only comes over time and with the building of trust.

My contribution to modern community centric sustainable development (CCSD) with Tr-Ac-Net is the development of a framework for social benefit accountancy that builds on regular GAAP accounting but does not stop at the limits of the entity but reaches out into society at large ... or perhaps, better put, it is public accounting that helps provide data that helps to hold the GAAP accounting organization accountable for its performance from a societal perspective.

The community is central to this framework ... because it is the community that either benefits or is damaged by profit oriented investment, trade and operations.

This is a big subject ... but I hope you get a flavor of where this is going.

All the best, and thanks

Peter Burgess
This does not tell the whole story, but I hope it opens the door to dialog.

What seems to becoming clear is that there is a lot of discussion about what things are called. I would argue that there is a huge need to have data about what things are ... and when there are data about what things are, then it becomes quite clear what they can be called. A wolf is a wolf, even when it is in sheep's clothing.


Peter Burgess
(Also in the Tr-Ac-Net on Community blog)


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