Lawler Kang is out to make money - and to make a difference. As chief operating officer of CitySoft Inc., a Boston Web development firm, Kang is charged with generating employment among inner-city adults while generating a profit. CitySoft accomplishes both goals by serving clients such as Reebok International and by filling 40 percent of their developer and designer positions with workers from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
"We are unquestionably for-profit," says Kang, a Wharton MBA and former consultant. "But we're also trying to change the way corporations regard urban adults as a source of talent." In addition to hiring from the inner city, CitySoft advises training organizations on employer needs and requires all
of its employees to act as mentors to one or more inner-city residents.
CitySoft and Kang are examples of a paradoxical trend toward social capitalism - the creation and operation of for-profit businesses that also have as a central mission the achievement of some social goal. While there's no accurate count of social capitalist companies, it's significant that last year Harvard Business School added a category for social ventures to its annual business plan competition. The 2002 National Social Venture Competition, a similar event sponsored by Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, had 77 entries, more than twice as many as in 2001. It's also significant that consumers and investors are both more interested in social-oriented businesses than ever before.