Establishing an Ethical Entrepreneurship
Dr. David P. Crandall, Anthropology
Today more than ever, people have a desire to reach out to help others—both internationally and
domestically. Technology has brought the world’s problems to the living rooms of the more for-
tunate. Unlimited options exist for attempting to mitigate the challenges of addressing hunger,
malnutrition, poor education, poverty and inequality. I had the opportunity to research the feasi-
bility of establishing an ethical entrepreneurship in a rural tribal village on the edge of the Sahara
Desert in Morocco. My research revealed steps to be considered when creating an ethical entre-
preneurship and the challenges that may be encountered in the process.
Definition: Ethical in this sense refers to the necessity that any economic venture attempted in a
foreign economy does not subjugate the participants to radical culture change; instead it must be
built upon the existing cultural norms and values. Although seemingly intuitive, it is essential
that the participating community be fully aware and fully involved in every aspect of the busi-
ness development. Distribution of capital gain must be methodologically deduced in order to
avoid inequality with the goal of benefiting the community as a whole, not individuals.
In Allougoum, Morocco the small population of about 500 people is stagnant in its economic
growth. The one bus that passes through this forgotten city carries the same few people down the
drought-cracked roads. The people of this town, however, do not have stagnant dreams. They are
industrious by survival—hardly a store exists within 50 miles of Allougoum that does not carry
more than the same basic necessities, forcing them to develop ways to create needed items by
their own means. One of the greatest skills of this community is their colorful rugs. Brilliant and
vibrant tones created from the sparse nature around them, these rugs are durable and functional.
The goal was to help the people of Allougoum create a rug that we could sell in the United States
at a price at least 500% higher than what they could receive in Morocco. The capital made from
this would be put back into the community in various ways. The weavers, typically women,
would receive an increase of their current income to that of a civil servant in the big cities (about
three times what they normally make). It is imperative that their pockets are not suddenly filled
with money—this could lead to adverse effects that would seriously disrupt the social structure
in the community. Infrastructure would be greatly enhanced including addition of a medical fa-
cility with experienced doctors and dentists that would provide services subsidized by rug sales,
improvement of primary schools with new, capable teachers. These improvements would effec-
tively create opportunities to improve health and prosperity within the community.
Attempting to work with a foreign culture inevitably leads to complexity; and when challenges
surface, it should be the duty of the investment group to be flexible with the communities needs
and traditions. Work ethic in Morocco is radically different from the typical forty-hour work-
weeks in America. A cultural distinction that dictates this difference is the Moroccan idiom “In-
shallah”, which means “God willing.” This simple phrase connotes the idea that, in our case, a
rug would be finished sometime in the future, if and when God dictates. It has nothing to do with
the work of the weaver, only with God’s will. Timelines hardly exists in this society. Also,
workdays were typically between four and six hours. Ignorantly this could be prescribed as lazi-
ness, however it is rooted in their societal custom of escaping the dangerous heat of the day by
napping and sipping tea for about five hours during midday. In order for a social entrepreneur-
ship to be established here, these and other factors must be considered without an immediate de-
sire to force change.
Quality control is a hurdle. First, the strict regulation for the import and distribution of a foreign
product into the United States becomes hard to adhere to when conditions of living and labor are
sub-par. A process of checking and rechecking the cleanliness of a product must be established.
Second, a challenge when producing handmade crafts is the inevitable variation in attempting to
reproduce an item and identical replication may be an impossibility. For U.S. consumers de-
manding a replicated product, there may be disappointment.
I was at an incredible disadvantage with my ability to communicate. Although one of the villag-
ers I worked with spoke a bit of English, the phraseology I chose at the beginning had to be ad-
justed because the terms I chose could be understood or translated differently. For example, I
discovered after a few weeks that my criticisms were generally not shared because giving and
receiving criticism was not a common practice. As my responsibility was to critique the rug work
and have the weavers rework areas, I found that the translator would never share my evaluations.
Instead he would simply say things as “this area is good and this area is better” due to the fact
that he did not understand why such appraisal was necessary. In the future, a person from the
community, preferably from a different village (explained next paragraph), should be chosen and
trained to do the critiquing I was conducting so that it would be done in an accepted way.
Social ties are very strong in small communities and this often makes entering the communities
or working within them difficult. When people in small areas are so closely knit, they have a
small group of trusted associates and venturing from this circle is unfathomable. Since I worked
closely with one family, they sought help only from their close friends. Although I met many po-
tential weavers that would benefit from this project, I was unable to communicate with them be-
cause my translator would not talk to them. A solution to this would be to hire and train an indi-
vidual from a similar village who has no previous ties in that community.
In conclusion, the principle steps to remember when establishing a communal ethical entrepre-
neurship internationally can be summarized as follows:
1. Observe and respect the cultural norms and traditions of the area of interest.
2. Establish a system of checking and rechecking for quality control.
3. Train a person who has all the understanding of cultural norms and communication skills.
4. Hire an individual from outside the community that he/she will be working with.
After six weeks of in field research it was concluded that the rug entrepreneurship in Allougoum
would not be a profitable investment at this time. I do not consider my work a failure however; I
now have a better understanding of what must be consider in establishing a businesses in a for-
eign area and the challenges that may be encountered.