At Forbes, Sramana Mitra writes on the latest public talk given by Nicholas Negroponte and assesses where things are heading. I think she raises an interesting point in regards to the not-for-profit status of OLPC Inc.
“One thing that has always intrigued me about the OLPC project: Given Negroponte’s fundraising prowess, why did he not set up OLPC as a for-profit? The professor said he did not want shareholders clouding his mission and moral purpose of this project, which is about educating children in the most disadvantaged parts of the world. Had there been profit objectives, that last billion may not have been the best place to focus.“
Well, the recent turbulence within the OLPC organisation (wait… and the economy at large..!) says that you’ve got a lot more to fear from upper management than ma-and-pa-shareholder. Conflict over the moral purpose of the project, and just how best to go about it, have not been avoided by being a not-for-profit. Besides, as I suggested before, if OLPC’s XOs sit within a unique and new market (where social capital is regarded as profit) allowing shareholders to buy into your company is a great way to let them directly contribute to the cause. Not only that, they stand to receive dividends.
Something to think about, anyway…make sure to check out her article.