Social Enterprise – Part 6

Presented by: Center for Balanced Development


Focus: Transportation & Logistics


Conceptual Framework:


History and Background

Getting from one place to another, throughout the history civilization, has always been the cause for development and human progress. The invention of the wheel and the use of animals created new possibilities in terms transportation and cargo. The use of wood in water transportation evolved as the means for travel across the oceans and exploration of the new world. The advent of railroad added another dimension to long distance travel. However, the invention of the automobile and its rapid development was a major milestone in the development of large cities and expansion of civilization across the vast landscape. Air travel brought further ease in global travel and movement of goods and connected the planet into a global village.         


Present Status & Needs

Today, transportation and logistics play a major part in the global economy and supply chain. We use transportation for food and household supplies. We use transportation to get to work, visit family and friends  and travel to new places to learn about other cultures. We use transportation for the movement of goods and products made half way across the planet. However, as pollution and congestion in big cities reach critical dimensions, there is a great need for alternative modes of transportation for our daily movement as well as long distance travel.        


Future Outlook

To create highly efficient and adequate transportation and logistics, there are great efforts being made to focus on mass transit and new models of urban planning as well as renewable sources of energy. As the global population increase and our cities expand, we cannot afford traffic gridlock and high fuel costs. By economic necessity, the transit systems in the cities of the future, the interstate transportation and distribution system must be cost-effective and highly efficient. Currently, great efforts are being made in developing new models of urban planning. For example the carfree movement ( and the city of Masdar ( are a couple of examples of great urban planning. Meanwhile the development of mass transit using renewable energy and electric vehicles is very promising.       



Applications for Social Enterprise Focused on Transportation & Logistics:



This is the most ancient mode of transportation which is still prevalent in many parts of the world. Whether it is horses, donkeys, camels, yaks or sled dogs, the use of animals is a necessity to nomadic tribes and people in remote parts of the world. However, as a social enterprise, there are numerous possibilities for recreation or commercial applications of incorporating animals in modern transportation with humanitarian and ecological considerations. The other possible area of focus would be protecting animals from abuse and mishandling of animals used for transportation. Another area would be training guide dogs and safety dogs guarding cargo and inventory in warehouses or dogs trained for checking transportation for drugs and illegal cargo or explosives.    


Bicycles, Wheelchairs & Segway

With the massive congestion and traffic in modern cities, we are seeing a trend towards bicycles, skates and personal compact vehicles like SEGWAY which are very easy to maneuver and offer great possibilities. Here, a social enterprise that is gaining momentum is Rental Stations. Where the users can use their credit cards to rent a electric cycle and return it to the same location or another location where the same service is available.

One such social enterprise concept is Alta Bicycle Share which uses solar paneled stations to charge its electric bicycles.  

Another area of great innovations are baby strollers and wheelchairs. There is a great need for low cost wheelchairs for poor regions of the world.


Electric Cars

This is a fast-developing industry that even though it does not address the issue of mass congestion but it does save energy and reduces pollution. Electric cars and conversion kits are being developed in most parts of the world and there are lots of opportunity for social entrepreneurs to innovate and initiate start-up projects to contribute to the development of the industry. One of the areas that is a great need for development is the electric charging stations which is currently available in some locations but as the number of electric vehicles increases charging stations will be in high demand. One great source of information and innovation for the industry is University of California in Los Angles   

Other sources are and

Another area of rapid growth is small electric vehicles like GEM which is used at golf-courses and localized commercial application and even as local transport for shopping and errands.


Elevators and Specialty Vehicles

Elevators and escalators play a key role in the development of high rises as vertical transport systems. As the number of high-rises in modern cities increase, the need for innovation for better, more efficient, faster and safer elevators could be the engine behind a great enterprise. Meanwhile a number of specialty vehicles such as forklifts and shopping carts need to be re-designed using electric sources or new ways of setting up the warehouse or shopping aisles to facilitate better and faster storage and retrieval. Inventions and ideas, as we have mentioned before, are often behind a great social enterprise which goes beyond economic rewards. Here OTIS  has been a pioneer with a long history.


Para-Gliders & Kite-surfing

There are interesting inventions and innovations in the development of all forms of para-gliders, ultralight aircrafts, powered para-gliders and various light aircrafts for recreational or commercial purposes. It’s always interesting to see prototypes and new ideas in action. Some of these ideas like “parasailing” and “ kite surfing” are gaining popularity and are great projects for starting a social enterprise.


Public Transport

The current popular notion of one person per car sitting in traffic is the most inefficient transport system where the amount of time and energy wasted is tremendous and that is not to mention the amount lost economic productivity that is lost. The most efficient means of transportation is obviously a well-designed mass transit system where the passengers can plan their departure and arrival times. Mass transit is also energy-efficient as more and more buses, boats, light planes and trains are powered by electric or alternative fuel sources. As for social enterprise startups in mass transit, on one end we are seeing a new wave of pedi-cabs in busy shopping districts, parks or commercial areas and on the other side we see social enterprise websites where shared-rides and cheap long distance travel is promoted. No matter where the innovations take place in using public transport, the outcome will be socially, economically and ecologically beneficial.      


Infrastructure, Roads, Ports & Tracks

There is an ever-increasing need for transportation infrastructure. Whether we are talking about bicycles, cars, boats, trains or planes the need for roads, ports and tracks is expanding and taking new forms according to the innovations being made in new means of transportation. For a social enterprise there are numerous possibilities for providing solutions, counseling and products and services that meet the need for the future models of transportation. One area in need of more development is road pavement material. For example, using recycled tires to make very durable pavement is one such concept. Among other items related to transportation are road signs and markings. Often, a small innovation in existing need or applications can be the beginning of a great project.   


Freight and Shipping

Today, our commerce and supply chain is global. There is a worldwide and complex shipping network for  products and cargo that are produced in one continent and used in another. The fright and shipping business includes all forms of transportation and often a single shipment could travel from cargo ships or planes, trains and trucks before arriving at its destination. For the creative social entrepreneur there are great opportunities in this field as there is a tremendous need for innovation in using alternative modes of product sourcing, shipping options and delivery. For example, starting a local express courier to make deliveries within a business district or in a city using an electric bike or vehicle can be a great initiave that would address the social, economic and ecological aspects of a social enterprise.  


Warehouse and Storage

Online sales of products has changed the way shop. More and more products are being purchased online which tend to be less expensive than the traditional retail outlets. Furthermore, online sales can be handled through a warehouse of any facility including one’s home depending on the scale of sales. Websites like AMAZON offer great opportunities to a start-up business and whoever wants to market their products this channel. However, as a social enterprise one could choose a product that would be beneficial socially, economically and ecologically. 


Production and Distribution

A social enterprise focused on limited high quality production and local distribution of products can be very successful. Usually these kind of projects whether it is a project to build guitars or to package locally grown organic food items can be a great means of bringing the community closer together, boost the local economy, benefit the ecology, save transportation and energy as well as creating jobs and skills.


Implications of a Social Enterprise Focused on Transportation & Logistics:



Transportation has always had an impact on the way we behave as a society. The modern example of owning a car and driving from the home garage to the work garage or driving for hours by ourselves in traffic or long distances to get to work, has created a culture of alienation. In communities where people use public transportation or in areas where walking in the neighborhood for shopping, work or socializing is part of the daily routine, we see a much more healthy environment, good relations, lots of friendships,  less stress and more productive lives. We see this in many small cities and villages in Europe where life is rich socially and the environment is clean.      



Transportation and logistics and its direct impact on our energy sources as well as the cost of production and supply chain play a key role in the global economy. Innovations in transportation and the use of renewable energy can be a great boost towards a more balanced economy. Social enterprise can further help by focusing on local productions and distribution to reduce the need for extended use of transportation and cost-saving measures. We also need to find means of considering the real cost of using current modes of global transportation in terms of its impact on society and ecology.     



The global ecology is being drastically affected by the massive global transportation network. Whether, we are just focusing on the automobile production trends and the number of cars today which is nearing one billion or whether we are looking at the fast development of cargo ships, oil tankers and various ocean liners which threaten the ecology of our oceans or whether we are looking at the rapid expansion of our air traffic and aircrafts, pollution seem to be increasing everywhere and learning to live in unhealthy environment of modern cities is a fact of life. Even though there are lots of innovations to address ecological impact of the transportation industry, nonetheless, the trend towards more pollution seem to be moving upward.


In conclusion, it is obvious that transportation and logistics are necessity for development and improving the quality of life. However, like every other industry, there is a great need for balance. Like most of our development activities, Here in creating better systems of transportation, we seem to be neglecting its impact on our communities, social relations, economic efficiency and ecological balance. Here, it is clear that there are no quick solutions. However, steps taken today can pay dividends in 10 or 20 years or longer. In other words, to achieve balance in social-economic development we need to focus on a future picture or a vision and make commitments across the globe to reach it.       


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