Social Entrepreneurship

Posted on January 25, 2011 by

Social entrepreneurs drive social innovation and transformation in various fields including education, health, environment and enterprise development. They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices. A social entrepreneur, similar to a business entrepreneur, builds strong and sustainable organizations, which are either set up as not-for-profit or for-profit companies.

A social entrepreneur is a leader or pragmatic visionary who:

  • Achieves large scale, systemic and sustainable social change through a new invention, a different approach, a more rigorous application of known technologies or strategies, or a combination of these.
  • Focuses first and foremost on the social and/or ecological value creation and tries to optimize the financial value creation.
  • Innovates by finding a new product, a new service, or a new approach to a social problem.
  • Continuously refines and adapts approach in response to feedback.

The Schwab Foundation employs the following criteria when looking for leading social entrepreneurs: Innovation, Sustainability, Reach and social impact.

Social entrepreneurs share come common traits including:

  • An unwavering belief in the innate capacity of all people to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development
  • A driving passion to make that happen.
  • A practical but innovative stance to a social problem, often using market principles and forces, coupled with dogged determination, that allows them to break away from constraints imposed by ideology or field of discipline, and pushes them to take risks that others wouldn’t dare.
  • A zeal to measure and monitor their impact. Entrepreneurs have high standards, particularly in relation to their own organization’s efforts and in response to the communities with which they engage. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, are their key tools, guiding continuous feedback and improvement.
  • A healthy impatience. Social cannot sit back and wait for change to happen – they are the change drivers.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is

  • About applying practical, innovative and sustainable approaches to benefit society in general, with an emphasis on those who are marginalized and poor.
  • A term that captures a unique approach to economic and social problems, an approach that cuts across sectors and disciplines.
    grounded in certain values and processes that are common to each social entrepreneur, independent of whether his/ her area of focus has been education, health, welfare reform, human rights, workers’ rights, environment, economic development, agriculture, etc., or whether the organizations they set up are non-profit or for-profit entities.
  • It is this approach that sets the social entrepreneur apart from the rest of the crowd of well-meaning people and organizations who dedicate their lives to social improvement.

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