Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship

Posted by Health Entrepreneur 02/02/2016

‘Social entrepreneurship’ is an endeavor to draw up new business ventures in solving community or social problems. It creates innovative solutions to pressing social issues and mobilizes the ideas, capabilities, resources and social arrangements essential for sustainable social transformation. A ‘social entrepreneur’ combines the passion of a social mission with a business perspective, innovation, and determination and strives for solving the social issues. The concept of social entrepreneurship has been in existence for few decades and came into limelight with the rise of community and social problems. Social entrepreneurs are promoted by the government through support in the form of funds and finances. Many social enterprises present around the world collaborate and support the seeding social entrepreneurs.


‘Social entrepreneur’ is a person who takes an initiative in implementing an ingenious or path breaking idea that has the potential to solve social problems and create positive modifications in the society or community. This attempt to draw upon business techniques to find solutions to the social problems or issues is termed as ‘social entrepreneurship’.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd President of the United States. In the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed as a social entrepreneur for his role in the establishment of Tennessee Valley Authority to overcome the effects of the Great Depression. The Tennessee Valley Authority revitalized local economy by harnessing the power of the local rivers to create cheaper energy.


Origin of social entrepreneurship

The concept of social entrepreneurship is not new. This concept has been in existence for many decades. There were entrepreneurs during nineteenth and twentieth centuries who strived extensively for the eradication of social evils. Many organizations were established that worked towards protecting the child rights, women empowerment, and saving the environment and treatment of waste products. The social entrepreneurs also involved themselves in addressing environmental problems and fiscal issues for rural and urban poverty stricken communities as well, apart from addressing the social problems.


Eminent entrepreneurs who contributed their efforts to eliminating the social problems:

a)Robert Owen, the founder of cooperative movement
b)Florence Nightingale founder of first nursing school and developer of modern nursing practices
c)Susan B. Anthony (US): Fought for Women’s Rights In United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead the adoption of the 19th amendment.

The concept of social entrepreneurship became popular among the society and academic research, following the publication of “The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur” by Charles Leadbeater. Many activities related to the development of community and higher social purpose comes under the modern definition of the social entrepreneurship. As social entrepreneurship is manifested in multiple forms despite the established definition, it remains a difficult concept to define.

Usage of the terms “Social Entrepreneur” and “Social Entrepreneurship”

a)1960s-1970s- The terms were used first in literature for social change.
b)1980s-1990s- The terms came into widespread usage, which was promoted by social entrepreneurs Bill Drayton, Charles Leadbeater, and others.
c)1950s-1990s- Michael Young was a leading promoter of social entrepreneurship.

Social Enterprises Around The World

1. Gates Foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates are the founders of the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation helps to improve the quality of the lives for billions of people. It collaborates with the partner organizations that brings resources, expertise, and vision to help tackle censorious problems that include four program areas.

a)Global Development Division works to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.
b)The Global Health Division accomplishes to harness advances in science and technology that would be helpful in saving the lives in the developing countries.
c)The United States Division functions to improve the education and support to the vulnerable children and families especially in the Washington State.
d)The Global Policy & Advocacy Division solicits to escalate the relationships and promote policies that will help improve the work.

2. The Skoll Foundation

Jeff Skoll, the President of eBay, founded the Skoll Foundation, a social enterprise, in 1999. Till date, the foundation has invested about $500 million in activities related to social entrepreneurship. The Foundation also gives away, Skoll Awards to the deserving social entrepreneurs and organization.  In addition, the foundation also funds a $25 million portfolio of program-related investments (PRIs).

The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, is an academic center dedicated to social entrepreneurship, and is run by The Skoll Foundation, in partnership with the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. The foundation also supports other social enterprises such as Ashoka, Acumen Fund and Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship.

The Skoll World Forum is an online platform that facilitates collaboration between the executives and the big brains behind social entrepreneurship. The Skoll Foundation promotes social entrepreneurship through creating public awareness of the social causes through their partnership with organizations such as PBS NewsHour and the Sundance Institute.


3. The Omidyar Network


The Omidyar Network is established by Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam. It is a philanthrocapitalist investment firm that enriches the economic advancement. The network of the firm with other for-profit companies fosters the participation in the areas such as Consumer Internet and Mobile, Education, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights.


4. Echoing Green

Echoing Green is a global non-profit organization that provides seed funding and also technical assistance to emerging social entrepreneurs. It organizes a fellowship program for social entrepreneurs. Out of 3,500 applications, only about 0.85% applicants are pulled each year and are trained effectively. Echoing Green Fellows include the founders of Teach For America, City Year, College Summit, Citizen Schools, One AcreFund. It has invested over $40 million in seed-stage funding and provided strategic assistance to nearly 700 world-class leaders driving positive social change around the globe.


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