Social entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to social problems. More specifically, social entrepreneurs adopt a mission to create and sustain social value. They pursue opportunities to serve this mission, while continuously adapting and learning. They draw upon appropriate thinking in both the business and nonprofit worlds and operate in all kinds of organizations: large and small; new and old; religious and secular; nonprofit, for-profit, and hybrid.
Business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, but social entrepreneurs also take into account a positive return to society. Social entrepreneurship typically furthers broad social, cultural, and environmental goals and is commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors. Profit can at times also be a consideration for certain companies or other enterprises.
Social entrepreneurship practiced in a world or international context is called international social entrepreneurship.
The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship were used first in the literature on social change in the 1960s and 1970s. The terms came into widespread use in the 1980s and 1990s, promoted by Bill Drayton the founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, and others such as Charles Leadbeater. From the 1950s to the 1990s Michael Young was a leading promoter of social entrepreneurship and in the 1980s was described by Professor Daniel Bell at Harvard as 'the world's most successful entrepreneur of social enterprises' because of his role in creating more than sixty new organizations worldwide, including the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) which exists in the UK, Australia and Canada and which supports individuals to realize their potential and to establish, scale and sustain, social enterprises and social businesses. Another notable British social entrepreneur is Andrew Mawson OBE, who was given a peerage in 2007 because of his regeneration work including the Bromley by Bow Centre in East London.
Although the terms are relatively new, social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship can be found throughout history. A list of a few historically noteworthy people whose work exemplifies classic "social entrepreneurship" might include Florence Nightingale, founder of the first nursing school and developer of modern nursing practices; Robert Owen, founder of the cooperative movement; and Vinoba Bhave, founder of India's Land Gift Movement. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries some of the most successful social entrepreneurs effectively straddled the civic, governmental, and business worlds – promoting ideas that were taken up by mainstream public services in welfare, schools, and health care.
One well-known contemporary social entrepreneur is Muhammad Yunus, founder and manager of Grameen Bank and its growing family of social venture businesses, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The work of Yunus and Grameen echoes a theme among modern day social entrepreneurs that emphasizes the enormous synergies and benefits when business principles are unified with social ventures. In some countries - including Bangladesh - social entrepreneurs have filled the spaces left by a relatively small state. In other countries - particularly in Europe and South America - they have tended to work more closely with public organizations at both the national and local level.
Today, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, foundations, governments, and individuals also play the role to promote, fund, and advise social entrepreneurs around the planet. A growing number of colleges and universities are establishing programs focused on educating and training social entrepreneurs.
The George Foundation's Women's Empowerment program empowers women by providing education, cooperative farming, vocational training, savings planning, and business development. In 2006 the cooperative farming program, Baldev Farms, was the second largest banana grower in South India with 250 acres (1.0 km2) under cultivation. Profits from the farm are used for improving the economic status of the workers and for running the other charitable activities of the foundation.
Some have created for-profit and for-a-difference organizations. A recent example is Vikram Akula, the McKinsey alumnus who started a microlending venture, SKS Microfinance, in villages of Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Although this venture is for profit, it has initiated a sharp social change amongst poor women from villages. Other examples of social entrepreneurs in Healthcare in India is Ramanujan Bose Awardee Dr Akash S Rajpal, Founder of Ekohealth has been working in India in the field of healthcare against Fee splitting and creating a unique ethical facilitation and aggregation services for healthcare providers and price comparison services for patients and help them reduce health care costs.
There are continuing arguments over precisely who counts as a social entrepreneur. The lack of consensus on the definition of social entrepreneurship means that other disciplines are often confused with and mistakenly associated with social entrepreneurship. Philanthropists, social activists, environmentalists, and other socially-oriented practitioners are referred to as social entrepreneurs. It is important to set the function of social entrepreneurship apart from other socially oriented activities and identify the boundaries within which social entrepreneurs operate. Some have advocated restricting the term to founders of organizations that primarily rely on earned income – meaning income earned directly from paying consumers. Others have extended this to include contracted work for public authorities, while still others include grants and donations. This argument is unlikely to be resolved soon. Peter Drucker, for example, once wrote that there was nothing so entrepreneurial as creating a new university: yet in most developed countries the majority of university funding comes from the state.
Organizations such as Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the Skoll Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Athgo, New Profit Inc., National Social Entrepreneurship Forum, and Echoing Green among others, focus on highlighting these hidden change-makers who are scattered throughout the world and providing various levels of resources to advance their initiatives. Ashoka's Changemakers "open sourcing social solutions" initiative Changemakers uses an online platform for what it calls collaborative competitions to build communities of practice around pressing issues.
The North American organizations tend to have a strongly individualistic stance focused on a handful of exceptional leaders, while others in Asia and Europe emphasize more how social entrepreneurs work within teams, networks, and movements for change. The Skoll Foundation, created by eBay's first president, Jeff Skoll, makes capacity-building "mezzanine level" grants to social entrepreneurial organizations that already have reached a certain level of impact, connects them through the annual Skoll World Forum and Social Edge, the Foundation's online community, and highlights their work through partnerships with the Sundance Institute, Frontline World, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and other film and broadcast outlets. Skoll also supports the field of social entrepreneurship, including through Skoll's founding of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School at Oxford University. Examples of social entrepreneurial business in the USA include NIKA Water Company, which sells bottled water in the USA and uses 100% of its profits to bring clean water to those in the developing world, as well as Newman's Own which donates 100% of its profits to support various educational charities.
Youth social entrepreneurship is an increasingly common approach to engaging youth voice in solving social problems. Youth organizations and programs promote these efforts through a variety of incentives to young people. One such program is Young Social Pioneers, which invests in the power and promise of Australia's young leaders. The program, which is an initiative of The Foundation for Young Australians, strengthens, supports and celebrates the role of young people in creating positive change in their communities. Programs in the USA include Ashoka's Youth Venture, which provides educational materials, challenges and grants; Do Something, which provides project ideas, grants and media exposure; and RandomKid, which provides youth with a wide range of free tools and resources to increase their social impact. An example in the United Kingdom would be The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award, which has a component for encouraging and recognizing social innovation; and in Canada, one place youth can find opportunities, networks and support is at Take IT Global.
Fast Company Magazine annually publishes a list of the twenty-five best social entrepreneurs, which the magazine defines as organizations "using the disciplines of the corporate world to tackle daunting social problems." In 2009, BusinessWeek followed suit, publishing a review of America's twenty-five most promising social entrepreneurs, defined as "enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems." Forbes launched their 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs in 2011, recognizing "folks who apply their entrepreneurial chutzpah to a social problem to make the world a better place. They’re creative, do-gooding business people, and they’re getting a lot done."
The internet and social networking websites have been pivotal resources for the success and collaboration of many Social Entrepreneurs. Captain Edward Zellem of www.AfghanProverbs.com has been working with Film Annex's Afghan Development project as an example individual social entrepreneurship that merges his work with the study of languages and culture into the film platform at Film Annex. These media allow ideas to be heard by broader audiences, help networks and investors to develop globally, and achieve their goals with little or no start-up capital. The US-based nonprofit Zidisha leverages the recent spread of internet and mobile technologies in developing technologies to provide an eBay-style microlending platform where disadvantaged individuals in developing countries can interact directly with individual "peer-to-peer" lenders worldwide, sourcing small business loans at lower cost than has ever before been possible in most developing countries. In addition the internet allows for the pooling of design resources using open source principles. For example, the rise of open-source appropriate technology as a sustainable development paradigm enables people all over the world to collaborate on solving local problems just as open source software development leverages collaboration.
- Collaborative method
- List of social entrepreneurs
- Social business
- Social enterprise
- Social innovation
- Social Venture Capital
- Appropriate technology
- Triple Bottom Line business theory
- Open-source appropriate technology
- Abu-Saifan, S. 2012. Social Entrepreneurship: Definition and Boundaries. Technology Innovation Management Review. February 2012: 22-27.
- David Bornstein, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Oxford University Press (and others) ISBN 0-19-513805-8
- Charles Leadbeater, The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, Demos, 1996
- Joanna Mair, Jeffrey Robinson, and Kai Hockerts, Social Entrepreneurship, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN 1-4039-9664-4
- Peredo, A. M., & McLean, M. 2006. Social Entrepreneurship: A Critical Review of the Concept. Journal of World Business, 41(1): 56-65.
- John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan, The Power of Unreasonable People: How Entrepreneurs Creates Markets to Change the World, Harvard Business Press, 2008
- Robert Gunn and Christopher Durkin, Social Entrepreneurship: A Skills Approach, Policy Press, 2010
- Muhammad Yunus, Bertrand Moingeon, Laurence Lehmann-Ortega, "Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience”, April-June, vol 43, n° 2-3, Long Range Planning, 2010, p. 308-325"
- "The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship," J. Gregory Dees, 1998, rev 2001 "The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship". CASE at Duke. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
- Thompson, J.L., The World of the Social Entrepreneur, The International Journal of Public Sector Management, 15(4/5), 2002, p.413
- Munoz, J.M.2010.International Social Entrepreneurship : Pathways to Personal and Corporate Impact. New York: Business Expert Press. http://www.businessexpertpress.com/books/international-social-entrepreneurship .
- For example, the phrase was used as a description of Robert Owen in J Banks, The Sociology of Social Movements, London, MacMillan, 1972
- 'The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, Demos, London, 1996
- "The Nobel Peace Prize 2006". Nobel Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-02.
- For example, the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) is an association for the growing sector of organizations pursuing a social or environmental mission using market-based strategies (www.se-alliance.org), and David Brandon McGinty is a former Deloitte consultant who now focuses exclusively on strategy and operations advice for NPOs/NGOs (non-profit organizations/non-governmental organizations) and social enterprises with H14 Development Group and World Vision.
- Marianne Bray, For Rural Women, Land Means Hope, CNN.com, 2005-10-03. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
- CNBC Young Turks Interview of Dr Akash S Rajpal on rising health costs and unethical fee split practices: http://www.moneycontrol.com/smementor/mentorade/innovation/ekohealth-making-healthcare-affordable--693659.html
- Feature on Your Story News Portal : http://yourstory.in/2012/09/dr-akash-s-rajpal-ceo-of-ekohealth-explains-why-high-healthcare-costs-in-india-are-unnecessary/
- CNBC Young Turks Interview Video: http://www.moneycontrol.com/smementor/mentortv.php?pgmode=pgen&autono=693659&mode=en&pageno=7
- Feature in Entrepreneur Magazine : http://entrepreneurindia.in/start-ups/economics-of-good-health/11605/
- Fee splitting
- Abu-Saifan, S. 2012. Social Entrepreneurship: Definition and Boundaries. Technology Innovation Management Review. February 2012: 22-27.
- Sheila Kinkade, Christina Macy, Our Time Is Now: Young People Changing the World, ISBN 0-9772319-0-9
- "25 Entrepreneurs who are changing the world". Retrieved 2006-10-15.
- America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs
- "Help Us Find 30 Awesome Social Entrepreneurs Under 30". Retrieved 2012-10-12.
- "Film Annex's Afghan Development project".
- "Zidisha Set to "Expand" in Peer-to-Peer Microfinance", Microfinance Focus, Feb 2010
- Joshua M. Pearce, “The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology”, Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14, pp. 425-431 (2012). http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10668-012-9337-9
|Wikiversity has learning materials about social entrepreneurship at|
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Appropriate technology Designs|
- Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition[dead link], Sally Osberg and Roger Martin
- Social Entrepreneurship: Definition and Boundaries, Samer Abu-Saifan
- Toward A Positive Theory of Social Entrepreneurship. On Maximizing Versus Satisficing Value Capture: By Alejandro Agafonow, Journal of Business Ethics, November 2013, DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-1948-z