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Crosscut Tout: Social business arrives on the big screen

Ayesha, a social business woman featured in Bonsai People. Credit: Bonsai People

The “social business” movement — a cadre of idealistic business people determined to make the world a better place — has taken Seattle by storm. These determined idealists discuss poverty over beers at Linda’s, swarm Town Hall’s global health events, and patiently explain the idea of a triple bottom line at every dinner party they attend. Even Crosscut’s upstairs neighbor is a coworking space designed to help such businesses blossom.

Still, the whole idea can seem a bit confounding for those raised in the traditional, bottom line-based school of business. How can one actually make any money while taking social and environmental impacts into account? Why not leave success to pure capitalism, letting our brightest and most competitive business people rise to the top? 

Holly Mosher’s documentary Bonsai People may provide some answers. The film, which is holding its Seattle premiere Wednesday night at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall, follows the career of microfinance legend Muhammad Yunus. Yunus’ own social business, microfinance giant Grameen Bank, has evolved from simply lending money to the impoverished to helping those same people create thousands of their own social businesses. The result is a superhuman spiderweb of social good, the positive global impact of which is enough to make you queasy.

Wednesday night’s screening will feature a talk by Mosher herself, as well as a keynote address by David Stephens, a founding member of the Grameen Foundation’s Technology Advisory Board. Interested (and thirsty) parties can buy a ticket to the VIP wine and cheese reception to hobnob with Mosher, Stephens, and a host of Seattle’s own social business people.

The entire event is a benefit for a group of Seattle global non-profits (including Lumana, Vittana, and Global Partnerships), so it’s totally acceptable if you succumb momentarily to a feeling of moral superiority while nibbling on your cheese squares and sipping your cabernet. Just be sure you’re clear on the definition of a triple bottom line before you go — that’s the real ticket to the social business club. 

If you go: “Bonsai People,” Wednesday, April 18 at 7 pm, VIP reception at 5:30 pm. $15 for film, $50 for film and reception. Register here.

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