Social entrepreneurship is a process by which citizens build or transform institutions to advance solutions to social problems, such as poverty, illness, illiteracy, environmental destruction, human rights abuses and corruption, in order to make life better for many.“ This description, and many of the ideas in this post come from the book; Social Entrepreneurship by David Bornstein and Susan Davis.
Social entrepreneurs have always existed, often called visionaries, humanitarians, philanthropists, reformers, saints or just great leaders. Gandhi built a decentralized political apparatus that enabled India to make a successful transition to self-rule. Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, spotted a pattern in organizations that were making a difference; “they had both a good idea and usually a committed, creative, and action-oriented person at the helm: an idea champion or entrepreneur.”
The main difference between a Social and a Business Entrepreneur has to do with purpose. For Social Entrepreneurs, the bottom line is to maximize some form of social impact usually by addressing an urgent need that is being mishandled, overlooked or ignored by other institutions. For business entrepreneurs, the bottom line is to maximize profit and stockholder equities. Social entrepreneurship is a process or a way to organize problem-solving efforts flowing from the bottom up. They are most effective when they demonstrate ideas that inspire others to go out and create their own social change.
The difference between Social Entrepreneurs and Activists, is that Activists have come from a position of outsiders to power whereas, Social Entrepreneurs frequently combine the intent/purpose of Activists working within the bounds of existing power structures they are wanting change from. In other words, they design a system or a way of accomplishing what they want, within the existing system. They have the unique and powerful position of being able to both “set the bar and lead the way to change within the system.”
Think of the possibilities; we could bring about economic recovery and address current social issues, at the same time, by using the vehicle of private, for-profit businesses to both design ways to address social problems and at the same time operate profitable businesses. How do we make sure they are profitable? One way, is by giving the working stakeholders an opportunity of getting a “piece of the deal,” through Cooperative, or other structures that provide the workers an opportunity to be owners. By building a “Great Team” of people, focused and working together on a agreed upon goal, spectacular results are possible!