What is Social Entrepreneurship?
As a new entrepreneur, every time I’ve heard the term “social entrepreneurship” I get a feeling of excitement and intrigue. Social + entrepreneurship? Yes! Sign me up. The idea of building a business that contributes something meaningful and beneficial, not just for your clients and employees but for the world, is something I have always aspired for. I’m sure there are many other business owners who share a similar interest in developing a business model that leaves the world better off. The question is, what is social entrepreneurship? What does this term really mean? What is required of someone in business to gain the title of “social entrepreneur?” It isn’t as challenging as you might think.
Social entrepreneurship is the act of identifying a social problem and building a business that is based around solving that problem. Businesses tend to measure their performance through profit and savings on operational costs. The social entrepreneur, on the other hand, measures performance success in terms of the social capital created through their efforts. This usually comes in the form of social and environmental goals and accomplishments.
Social entrepreneurship demands the same confidence, innovation and motivation as any other business. However, in a manner that prioritizes social development and the simultaneous creation of social and economic values. The social entrepreneur establishes a platform that pays it forward and influences others to do the same, paving the way for social change. Hence, more than making a profit the focus is to execute social change through the use of unique solutions that help a community overcome established obstacles. Social entrepreneurship is not just about fund-raising for foundations or non-profit organizations, it has really integrated the pursuit of social good with a business structure that aims for sustainability. This form of development work also educates people about the importance of taking care of their own lives.
Incorporating Social Entrepreneurship
into Your Business
Social entrepreneurship is a hybrid model that combines business ownership and social change, offering people the opportunity to earn a living while living one’s passion. It is a field with distinct and shifting interpretations. It utilizes business principles to accomplish social purpose or execute some social change whether domestic or abroad. Social entrepreneurs are not afraid to challenge the world’s biggest problem. They recognize extraordinary potentials and are committed to helping billions of people in need, across the world, to use their talents and skills to attain their potential. For people who only consider working for a nonprofit organization, social entrepreneurship provides them an opportunity to make good money while honoring their nonprofit values.
If you are not ready to completely rewrite your business plan to include a revolutionary new way to change the world there are small steps you can take to add social entrepreneurship into your current business.
Know What Your Brand Is and What You’d Like to Represent
The greater complementary the cause, the more likely your stakeholders will be on board. Identifying a social issue that resonates deeply with you and your business will provide personal motivation to carry on with your mission. Identifying a social issue that goes hand in hand with the line of work that you are in will assist in engaging members of your company and cause.
Know Who Your Customers Are and What They Care About
Connecting your customers’ common interests with a relevant social cause offers an effective way of integrating social entrepreneurship while creating a buzz-worthy social effort that they can get involved with. For example, if you own a restaurant and have a passion for helping others you could set up a social platform at your restaurant like ‘Causley’ that allows your customers to check-in each time they come in to eat. With each check-in made you can elect to have a meal donated to a hungry child or family in need. An option like this creates awareness of your issue, gets your customers involved and promotes your business socially online.
Most people are interested and willing to contribute to causes they feel touched by. The truth of the matter is, the majority of people as a whole aren’t very well informed on local social issues. Creating a webpage or social media page to share and document photos and progress of your social contributions will help stir a buzz around your project and might encourage others interest. Bringing a face and a voice to the people you’re helping will provide a clearer image of the impact you can make by getting involved.
Network with a Purpose
Building relationships with like-minded professionals who share a common passion for social entrepreneurship will not only extend your reach and boost your effectiveness but could also open doors that may not have opened otherwise. Combining forces with the right entrepreneurs provides opportunity for more resources and new insights through collaboration. Networking is an essential component of entrepreneurship in general as most individuals offer their own set of unique tools, knowledge and experience.
Iconic Social Entrepreneurs
Before the term “social entrepreneur” was ever coined there were countless figures who made history paving the way for social change through their accomplishments. These icons helped solve world social problems by not just investing their own time and money but by developing a system that ensured accountability and sustainability for their cause, and advocating for people who were unable to do so for themselves. Below are 3 examples of social entrepreneurs who have impacted the world in a very real way through their good-intentioned entrepreneurial efforts.
Susan B Anthony
Susan B Anthony led the fight against women’s suffrage during the 19th century in the United States when she helped establish equal rights for women. Among her life changing accomplishments was the creation of the Women’s Loyal National League, which is said to have conducted the largest petition drive in the history of the United States of America, where they collected close to 400,000 signatures in favor of abolishing slavery. These social efforts impacted the past, present and future lives of everyone living in the United States for the better.
Vinoba Bhave founded the Land Gift Movement during the 20th Century in India. Known as Gandhi’s spiritual successor, Vinoba Bhave traveled across all the lands of India on foot, in efforts to persuade land owners to donate a portion of their land to landless people of the country. The intention was for landless people to be gifted their own land so they could grow their own food and become self-sufficient. This movement led to the redistribution of more than 700,000 acres of land to the country’s poorest inhabitants.
As a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after the work he accomplished during his time spent in the banking industry. Having founded the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus established the financial game-changing principles of microcredit and microfinance. These are credit and loan options that are made available for entrepreneurs with low income or poor credit, who do not qualify for standard bank loans. This concept is now used across the world (typically found in developing countries,) providing more opportunity and financial support for aspiring business owners.
In conclusion, most noble, life changing projects start as a wild idea in the mind of an eager entrepreneur. It’s easy to assume that the above historic figures never imagined what a large impact and legacy they would leave on the world. They were driven by a passion for helping others and the motivation to drive social change. The lesson here is that it is very possible to integrate social contribution to an existing business model. Big or small, the key is to make efforts each day toward your goal for a brighter, happier and healthier world. Hold tight to your intention and enjoy the process, you might just end up leaving a legacy bigger than those who came before you.