Social Entrepreneurship – What is it?
Is profit the sole focus of entrepreneurship? Is maximizing returns the only thing that matters? If we answer these questions with a ‘Yes’, we would not be doing justice to a whole class of social entrepreneurs - people who are devoted towards bringing a social change through their business ventures.
Social entrepreneurs are in the business of touching lives. Such individuals do not believe that addressing social issues is the responsibility of the government and large corporate houses alone; they take it upon themselves to champion the cause they believe in. Social entrepreneurs go beyond philanthropy to bring radical changes in their society and put forth new and sustainable models of businesses with a cause.
So, how does social entrepreneurship work? In truth social entrepreneurship combines the management principle of running a business with the passion and ambition to achieve social and environmental goals. Social entrepreneurship includes not for profit ventures, pure social purpose entrepreneurial ventures as well as hybrid ventures that are a mix of profit and not for profit motives.
Of course building an organization on the principles of social entrepreneurship is easier said than done. For one, taking this road to public service is fraught with challenges in terms of financial constraints and difficulty in acquiring resources including human resources. When deciding to follow your heart and step into creating a business with a big vision of social change, you would do well to ensure your business partners and/or backers were already in place.
However, there are many inspiring stories of entrepreneurs of who have paved their own path to success. One of the most well known social entrepreneurs in the world is perhaps Mr. Muhammad Yunus who created the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and is a founding board member of the Grameen Foundation. He brought a revolution in banking by eliminating the need for collateral. The bank provides small loans to the poor at easy interest rates and to ensure repayment it uses a system of "solidarity groups" which are informal groups that apply together for loans and its members act as co-guarantors of repayment. The money earned from the repayment of the loans is recycled to give out fresh loans.
The scope of social entrepreneurship is huge; the key philosophy is - to start an organization that can generate revenues to run itself while fulfilling larger social goals like education for all, helping the underprivileged stand on their own feet, etc.
At some level we all are social entrepreneurs but we follow our passions with differing perspectives, unique potential and underlying root purposes. All of which are beautiful when sound in their business practices. So, if you wish to be more than just a living room activist, have the vision and the desire to make a difference, perhaps it’s time you explored this facet of entrepreneurship.