Coloring the World with Happiness, Hope, Love and Peace

GPC Person of the Month: Dr. Leon C. Prieto 

Dr. Leon Prieto is an associate professor of management at Clayton State University and an associate research fellow at the Cambridge Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. He is one of two co-authors of African American Management History: Insights on Gaining a Cooperative Advantage – a book that challenges the status quote of business management while laying out the benefits of practicing cooperative advantage over a competitive one. In addition, Prieto is a member of the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2021 and is recognized for his groundbreaking research in Black Entrepreneurship and Management History.


Dr. Leon Prieto and His Involvement with Global Paint

Dr. Prieto was first introduced to Global Paint for Charity (GPC) in March 2016. Dr. Prieto saw Global Paint as a great source of inspiration to his students. Prieto requested Rony Delgarde, CEO and founder of GPC, to be a guest speaker to one of the professor’s undergraduate classes at Clayton State University. Over the next five years, Prieto has become both a mentor and donor to GPC. He believes in Rony’s passion for sustainability and Global Paint’s mission to recycle paint and to empower communities in need. “I consider myself a friend to Rony and Global Paint because I have faith in their mission and purpose,” Dr. Prieto stated. “I try my best to amplify the work the organization does when I talk about social enterprises in the various presentations I give on an annual basis. I commonly call on for-profit companies to appoint individuals like Rony, who are passionate about sustainability, to their corporate boards. This way we can ensure that these companies are also working on the development of sustainable cities and communities.”

What is social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is the creation of sustainable enterprises that seek out positive social change through innovative ideas and entrepreneurial principles. According to Dr. Leon Prieto, social entrepreneurship commonly fall under two main perspectives: for-profit and not-for-profit. A for-profit organization is commercially viable and socially constructive (Prieto & Phipps, 2014). In this case, a profit is obtained, but part of the profit is utilized to solve a social problem such as lack of healthcare, pollution, or world hunger. A not-for-profit enterprise, such as Global Paint, however, tends to rely on philanthropy and/or government subsidies to achieve its social mission (Prieto, Phipps & Friedrich, 2012). In both perspectives, an organization’s goal is to maneuver and manipulate its resources to reach its social objective, affecting how the organization is structured and how it measures success (Prieto & Phipps, 2014).

Prieto’s views on Social Entrepreneurship

Prieto’s research focuses on historic Black companies and social enterprises and how they operated. His research explores how these businesses were managed, what guidelines were implemented, and how they affected their goals and objectives. Dr. Prieto found that these organizations were very successful because of their care to their customers, employees, and communities. That care was then reciprocated by the organizations’ stakeholders. “The reason being,” Prieto argues, “that people commonly want to be affiliated with a caring organization, especially one that emphasizes its stakeholders’ well-being and highlights a social issue the world is facing today.” 

Global Paint actively practices social entrepreneurship. The company is constantly developing and hosting sustainable practices and various events to achieve its goal of bringing color to every corner of the world. GPC runs solely on the time and talent of its volunteers and donors, like Dr. Leon Prieto. It utilizes donations and provides services that make it easier for people to recycle paint while allowing underserved communities to beautify their towns and cities.  

Impact Covid-19 has had on social enterprises.

Dr. Leon Prieto talked about the negative and positive ways the pandemic has influenced social enterprises. The global economy was severely affected by the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. Loss of capital for both individuals and organizations made it difficult for social entrepreneurs to successfully build and manage their enterprises, resulting in several businesses’ permanent or temporary closure.

However, the outbreak of Covid-19 also affected social entrepreneurship and its practitioners positively. Prieto argues that the virus managed to uncover significant flaws within our businesses, economies, and communities. It gave light to old and new problems, emphasizing the need for social enterprises. With the comprehension of where the world stands, social entrepreneurs are now able to cater and shape their enterprises to achieve their social mission better.

For Global Paint, the Covid-19 virus facilitated a bigger need for the organization’s services at a national and an international level. Not only has the virus made paint more inaccessible due to the resulting recession, but it has also negatively impacted the mental health of hundreds of people. According to Panchal et al, 2021, isolation, loss of income, and job insecurity are all contributing factors to the decline in mental health especially among young adults, communities of color, and essential workers. In 2021, 41.1% of adults in US households reported having signs of depression and/or anxiety compared to the 11.0% in 2019 (Panchal et al, 2021). History has shown that crises’ negative effects on mental health commonly outlast the physical ones, highlighting the importance of organizations like GPC. The psychology of color argues that colors can evoke emotional reactions that can affect mood and stress levels. As a result, they can increase productivity and improve an individual’s sense of wellbeing. Through its mission, Global Paint hopes to continue to make the paint more accessible while promoting positivity, harmony, and optimism through its colors.    

 How Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted minority-owned social enterprises and businesses?

 According to the CDC, some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to the inequities in different social determinants of health, such as access to healthcare, discrimination, and poverty. As a result, these groups face an increased risk of getting sick and dying from the Covid-19 virus. Dr. Leon Prieto insists that this disproportionate negative impact is portrayed in minority-owned social enterprises and businesses like Global Paint. When compared to their counterparts, data show that minority-owned small businesses have encountered higher rates of closures and sharper declines in cash balances in 2020 (Misera, 2020). In addition, they are commonly less financially stable. As a result, they are more exposed to the effects of an economic downturn, further demonstrating the need for policies that support these businesses and organizations (Misera, 2020).   

The Cooperative Advantage: How can we utilize cooperation to combat the negative impact Covid-19 has had on social entrepreneurship?

 “I see a need for some of the values of cooperation to take place today, especially during this pandemic. Because to rebuild America, we can’t do it alone. This individualistic mindset, I think, will hurt us more than help us.” Dr. Leon C. Prieto in Interview with Business RadioX

 Unlike capitalism, cooperation is a people-centered system. It highlights how important it is for entrepreneurs and business owners to embody the spirit of care and community. When embedded in cooperative values, an enterprise’s purpose extends to the well-being of the organization’s employees, customers, and communities. Businesses that practice cooperation tends to outperform businesses that do not. It is essential to understand that exercising cooperation does not mean the exclusion of competition. There are benefits to both. With the impression Covid-19 has left on the economy and our lives, however, it is beneficial to view “business as a social institution and work itself as a community service” (Prieto & Phipps, 2014). Dr. Prieto believes that Global Paint for Charity reflects the ideals and benefits of implementing a cooperative advantage approach. Its diverse group of volunteers, partners, and executives allow the organization to fully encompass the spirit of care while promoting meaningful dialogue among its stakeholders and the communities it benefits from. Regardless of the challenges it might face, Dr. Leon Prieto argues that: through cooperation, GPC will continue to successfully expand and promote its mission of changing the world one gallon at a time.  

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