Could Location Free Businesses Become Social Enterprises?

Travel-minded entrepreneurs with location free businesses are in the perfect position to contribute their skills and experience to developing countries.

Location free skills

Location free or location independent businesses aren’t tied to an office or physical location, which means the people running them can do so from almost anywhere in the world.

The fact that they tend to be web-based companies - providing anything from information services to software applications or communicating and working with clients remotely – also helps; location free businesses are well placed to help support the growing need and development of ICT within developing countries.

Perfectly positioned

Entrepreneurs are used to walking a different line: they’re risk takers, shy away from limitations and possessed of almost unlimited amounts of willpower.

Those that want to combine travel and work tend to bring this drive to a quest for cultural immersion, they’re as passionate about meeting people and becoming involved within communities as they are about everything else.

Without the higher overheads of capital investment and offices, location free businesses by their very nature allow their owners the opportunity to give more back and to fulfill their own philanthropic ambitions. 

And, from the looks of things, plenty of budding entrepreneurs fall into that category.

On the global scale, I would speculate that young people now have a much greater understanding of the wider world around them.

We seem to be seeing a generation of young people who want to embed their values and aspirations in their working lives, and not have them as an adjunct.” Christine Wilson, head of youth and society of the British Council told The Guardian last year. 

Have business, should travel

Moreover, there’s some evidence to suggest that they’ll benefit long term from the travel experience.

Research by Tel Aviv University in November 2012 found that by being able to identify with more than one culture as a result of an immersive travel experience, people had an increased likelihood of becoming more successful.

The ability to identify with multiple cultures, or “biculturalism” as the researchers called it, had the effect of increasing ability to hold conceptually linked multiple perspectives, which led to improved creativity, innovation and flexibility of thought.

In other words as the research concluded: immersive travel improves the chances of personal success.

One person who’d be likely to enthusiastically agree with that conclusion is Michael Bodekaer, a tech start-up guru from Switzerland, who now spends most of his time working from Bali, Indonesia.

Since Bodekaer established in Bali, he has continued to expand his business and even employed from within local communities to help build new tech start ups.

He’s also the founder of non-profit tech incubators, such as Project Getaway, an opportunity for collaboration and skill sharing amongst entrepreneurs, which also focuses on attaining a balanced lifestyle, including travel whilst working.

But whether they start up their own projects, employ and train from within local communities, or even just take the idea to give back further on a smaller scale - location free entrepreneurs are in an ideal position to lend skills and experiences.

Crowd sourced skill sharing

There is, for example, a growing need for people with business skills to support social enterprises being set up within developing countries.

Wray Irwin of Northampton Business School, writing for the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said:

Whilst we in the UK ponder what a [Government led] ‘Big Society’ might be, its worth thinking that wherever you are in the world there will be social enterprise activity of some kind.

“Whilst they may all look different the one thing that ties them together is a commitment of passionate people who want to change the world and make a difference to society. Entrepreneurs in the truest sense of the word.”

Speaking about entrepreneurs assisting social enterprises in developing countries, Bharti Patel, head of the Society for Voluntary Actions Revitalisation and Justice, said recently. “There is an urgent need for such input — writing a good business plan for a social and green enterprise can go a long way towards achieving the desired results and sustainability. It also helps to convince banks to provide the necessary credit,” 

He suggested creating a local voluntary time bank where such expertise can be tapped into both by locals in need of training and by business owners with the skill and the time to help.

It’s a view shared amongst others trying to establish social enterprises in developing countries.

Anybody trying to promote and catalyse social enterprise activity needs to make sure that they make available a variety of support that the social enterprises need,” agreed Manju George, co-founder and head of corporate development at Intellecap, India.

There needs to be an 'ecosystem' of people, tools and policies that support them. One organisation may not be able to do [it] all; but multiple organisations complementary to each other can create this ecosystem,” he said.

Can entrepreneurs save the world?

If more location free entrepreneurs take advantage of their ability to travel while working, there’ll be a growing stream of business acumen ready to be tapped into by social enterprises around the world.

Maybe some will even eventually become well established enough to launch social enterprises of their own, lending skills and experiences to projects, training centers, schools and local communities.

But to get going business owners need a road map: they need to be able to tap into the infrastructure of successful existing projects and into their own collective intelligence and experience, sharing ideas and aspirations that can really improve lives.

Written by Lyndsey Burton - founder of Choose, a location free company that offers consumer information and price comparison in the UK – and Julia Kukiewicz – the site’s editor. Lyndsey lives in the UK, Julia lives in Taipei, Taiwan and both aim to one day fulfill their own philanthropic ambitions.

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