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And many more such statements that put Social Entrepreneurship on the map.
Social Entrepreneurship hits about 19.9 million results on Google. But what is this all about? Before turning to the concept and some cases of Social Entrepreneurship, let's break down the term.
According to Joseph Schumpeter an Entrepreneur is defined as
Knowing what makes the entrepreneur, the social dimension is what really makes the difference. While a commonly agreed upon definition of Social Entrepreneurship is lacking, there is certainly some key features worthy to mention here on what makes the social entrepreneur (SE) so unique.An innovator who implements entrepreneurial change within markets, where entrepreneurial change has five manifestations: 1) the introduction of a new/improved good; 2) the introduction of a new method of production; 3) the opening of a new market; 4) the exploitation of a new source of supply; and 5) the carrying out of the new organization of any industry.
Feature 1: Dealing with problems of the community:The SE is compared to traditional for-profit models, looking to create value for its community by e.g. combining existing resources into a new, innovative idea or changes the method of producing a product in a more social way.
Feature 2: Delivering sustainable solutions: The SE seeks to find a solution for a problem with a long-term perspective. As profit is not the primary goal, the solutions may take time and resources, but the goals is to ensure an inclusive and innovate solution. All that, of course, at the benefit of the community as a whole, not only for the single entrepreneur.
Feature 3: Empowering customers: SE are members of their community and/or want to work to their benefit. Empowering its customers means here that SE actively engages community members with their product and provides products which foster the idea to "get help to help yourself". Customers are many times not only consuming the product, but get and remain actively involved with it.
Feature 4: Targeting social demands the state or businesses have not met: SE deal with problems that are present in society, but have not been dealt with by either the state in the form regulation or for-profit businesses in the form of a normal product. The SE therefore takes up a hybrid form between the state and the business.
After exploring these key features, maybe a first concept along the following can be concluded:
Social Entrepreneurship is an innovative way to finding solutions to societal problems within local markets.
Image Credit: Set4Change
While this concept is still far from complete or universally applicable, many features and the ideas of SE have been distinguished by researchers over the last two decades. Apart from scholarly attention to the concept, the entire interest came up by the fact that new types of economic activity came up which neither fit the profile of traditional non-for-profit organizations, nor for-profit companies. This hybrid type of activity we now all know as Social Enterprises. But even though it might look like it, the idea of serving the community without having profit as the main prerogative is much older than expected.
In the past, we labeled them not Social Entrepreneurs, but maybe philanthropists or humanitarians. Maybe even saints. They helped improving their communities and shared their knowledge and means to achieve sustainable solutions for social problems - much like SE today. What is new today is the reach and magnitude at which societal change is happening. With technological innovations, communication tools and market exposure, ideas can be shared and worked on together - as well as successful projects may even be transferred elsewhere to benefit even more people.
Examples of Social Entrepreneurship
One of the most cited stories is the one of Grameen Bank, a social enterprise to offer microloans to supply the poor with credit to open their own small businesses in their local communities. His system does not only involve the debtor, but builds a network where debtors and creditors monitor each other, thus creating checks and balances without any further involvement of e.g. for-profit banks. The Grameen Bank furthermore is not accessible to anyone, but meant exclusively for the poorest and puts special emphasis on supporting women. This system is by now even profitable while still fulfilling the overall objective of trying to elevate the poorest from their destiny and empower them to get out of the often decade-long impoverishment. This project inspired a global micro-credit movement in more than 60 countries globally - a business model with global reach and the power to make a real change - bottoms-up, sustainable and inclusive.
Another story that found a lot of media attention was the apprenticeship program by famous chef Jamie Oliver - Fifteen. With this project he gives a chance to young people to learn the art of cooking and hospitality, provide them with expertise and network while also teaching about entrepreneurship. Before, many might have not stood a chance in the rigorous labor market - but the program gave them a chance to change their lives and inspire others to do the same. A business model which is common around the world, but he transferred the crucial part of the human capital to make a social impact in the local community. Empowering youth to build the own destiny but also showing an alternative to the rule to society at large is what lies at the heart of this project.
And these are only two of the many initiatives innovative entrepreneurs took up to build a better world. All in all, the entire idea of SE bears potential to achieve finally in international development: A bottoms-up approach involving all actors at the local level focusing on empowerment rather than on control or regulation.
What is your opinion? Is Social Entrepreneurship the path of the future for a sustainable and developed world without poverty and exclusion? Do you know of a Social Enterprise in your community? Please share in the comment section!