How do you define social good? Let’s talk about purpose says MC Hammer. How do you define “social good?”
He looks straight at me. The class falls silent. Heads turn my way.
Holy cats, did MC Hammer just serve me a pop quiz? said Tien, a Stanford MBA Student. A group of MBA students discuss their firsthand experiences from the Power of Social Technology curriculum at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Stanford GSB invited Hammer—Twitter-savvy pop icon adored by millions—to co-teach Social Media for Social Good, a class in which Stanford MBA and design students are enrolled. Ian is one of them.
A good or service that benefits the largest number of people in the largest possible way. Some classic examples of social goods are clean air, clean water and literacy; in addition, many economic proponents include access to services such as healthcare in their definition of the social or “common good”.
Investopedia explains Social Good
The capitalism-based definition of business states that companies exist only to provide the maximum possible return to shareholders. This has often not run parallel to serving the common good in ways such as promoting clean air and water, and financial independence for all citizens.
As corporations focus more on corporate sustainability efforts and social responsibility, their business models may expand to include more social goods in their day-to-day strategies and operations.
The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific “good” that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community. This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy, ethics, and political science.
However, there is no strict definition of the common good/social good for each situation. The good that is common between person A and person B may not be the same as between person A and person C. Thus the common good can often change, although there are some things such as the basic requirements for staying alive: food, water, and shelter – that are always good for all people.
The common good is often regarded as a utilitarian ideal, thus representing “the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals”. In the best case scenario, the “greatest possible number of individuals” would mean all sentient beings. This definition of the common good presents it as a quality which is convertible, or reducible, to the sum total of all the private interests of the individual members of a society and interchangeable with them.
Another definition of the common good or social good, as the quintessential goal of the State, requires an admission of the individual’s basic right in society, which is, namely, the right of everyone to the opportunity to freely shape his life by responsible action, in pursuit of virtue and in accordance with the moral law.
The common good, then, is the sum total of the conditions of social life which enable people the more easily and straightforwardly to do so. The object of State sovereignty is the free choice of means for creating these conditions.
Others, in particular John Rawls, makes the distinction between the Good, that is actively creating a better world however that may be defined, and the Just, which creates a fair, liberal social infrastructure that allows the pursuit of virtue, but does not prescribe what the common good actually is.
Rawls tries to draw a boundary between just and unjust society. This is as difficult as reaching the best optimum for an economist. Nonetheless, Rawls has done an extraordinary job in stating what justice is, a topic difficult to define. He has brought in a new and challenging perspective on the idea of justice based on systematic economics. Owing to the fact that this theory is recent than many others, we are yet to realise and understand its full impact on society if applied.
P.S. Social good can easily be started with a Kindness program or initiative. Check out the Kindness Matters Conferences