Entrepreneurship has become more complex recently. It is not about founding a business, exploiting market opportunities and gaining individual wealth and success. The business of the Generation Y is the business of community, of sharing and of exchanging.
Social Entrepreneurship is business that has positive outcomes in economic, as well as in social terms. You could say it is the mindful way of doing business – the human approach to making the most of market opportunities. It is an attempt to make the world a better place.
What is so special about Social Entrepreneurship? How exactly does it differ from “just” entrepreneurship? That is a big question. We are talking about blurry lines here. Entrepreneurship itself is a concept that is difficult to grasp – it is innovation, experimentation, creativity, passion, perseverance and the courage to take risks.
Clearly, a social entrepreneur’s answers to these questions would be different from those of a purely entrepreneurial leader.
Motivation – What motivates a social entrepreneur? This refers to a dissatisfaction with the status quo and the desire to change it. Social entrepreneurs uncover inequalities and try to provide solutions to fight these.
Pursuit – in which way is a goal achieved?
They do so by finding a balance between profitability and social change. A social business needs to sustain itself and it can only do so, in the long run, if it is sufficiently equipped with the means necessary to pursue its goal to evoke positive change.
Outcomes – combining economic and social gains.
As mentioned before, social entrepreneurs are not merely interested in accumulating wealth. Beyond success, they focus on the social outcomes their efforts will produce.
Does this model make it easier to describe social entrepreneurship? Possibly. Yet – still struggle to really put it down into words? Well done! You recognize that social entrepreneurship is not one or the other. It is clearly economic, but not purely. It is social, but not only referring to non-profits and charity. A social entrepreneurial leader. A civic entrepreneur. Does that make it easier to understand? Not really.
Do social entrepreneurs have certain characteristics which make it easy to recognize them?
Are they, compared to fellow entrepreneurs, all altruistic and martyrs? Or display an exceptionally high level of empathy? That would be too easy. Social entrepreneurs are far more than that. This is like telling a musician: oh, but you only practice and perform. It takes more than that to become a pianist on the world stage.
Let’s face the truth: we can no longer turn away from issues, such as climate change and the environmental pollution, international terrorism or global poverty. These are issues that do not affect one particular part of the world only, but these have far-reaching consequences, that clearly transgress state-boarders. The world has shrunk in size: the internet makes it easy to lend a hand to someone who is, physically, entirely out of reach. Are we thus all becoming more human? We are definitely becoming more aware. The internet has taken away any excuse for ignorance and deliberate denial.
Politically, there has been a shift from the rhetoric of self-help and power politics to a global community that equally respects democracy and cosmopolitanism. Legitimacy no longer derives from military power only, but strongly builds on respecting human rights and liberalism. Politicians publicly declare themselves as internationalist. Now, we speak of a global community, one that does not divide the planet into north and south. We are living in an age where the Canadian president advocates diversity as the motor for innovation.
Ethics matter, in politics as they do in economics. Climate change, human development, education are issues that call for mindful, sustainable solutions. These can only be achieved through co-operation in a global community, where individuals – global citizens – are included and encouraged to actively participate.
There is a need for businesses who bring social change. There is a need to make the world a better place.
These are optimists, and believers. They are thinkers. They think twice about how their actions impact on others. They don’t only see the end product but recognize the chain that is lying behind it.
The way to success does not lay perfectly paved ahead of you – you are paving it as you are walking. You might not always be strong enough to heave a rock out of the way on your own. You need people. You are working within a community, for a community. Life is getting and giving. It’s sharing and caring.
(This text has originally been published on Feb 19, 2016, on thechanger.org