What Is a Social Entrepreneur?
A social entrepreneur is a person who pursues novel applications that have the potential to solve community-based problems. These individuals are willing to take on the risk and effort to create positive changes in society through their initiatives.
- A social entrepreneur is interested in starting a business for greater social good and not just the pursuit of profits.
- Social entrepreneurs may seek to produce environmentally-friendly products, serve an underserved community, or focus on philanthropic activities.
- Social entrepreneurship is a growing trend alongside socially responsible (SRI) and ESG investing.
Understanding Social Entrepreneurs
While most entrepreneurs are motivated by the potential to earn a profit, the profit motive does not prevent the ordinary entrepreneur from having a positive impact on society. As Adam Smith explained in The Wealth of Nations (1776), “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.” Smith believed that when individuals pursued their own best interests, they would be guided toward decisions that benefited others. The baker, for example, wants to earn a living to support his family. To accomplish this, he produces a product, bread, which feeds and nourishes hundreds of people.
Examples of social entrepreneurship include microfinance institutions, educational programs, providing banking services in underserved areas and helping children orphaned by epidemic disease. Their efforts are connected to a notion of addressing unmet needs within communities that have been overlooked or not granted access to services, products, or base essentials available in more developed communities.
A social entrepreneur might also seek to address imbalances in such availability, the root causes behind such social problems, or social stigma associated with being a resident of such communities. The main goal of a social entrepreneur is not to earn a profit, but rather to implement widespread improvements in society. However, a social entrepreneur must still be financially savvy to succeed in his or her cause.
How Social Entrepreneurs Take Action
The introduction of freshwater services, through the construction of new wells for instance, to communities that lack stable utilities of their own is another example of social entrepreneurship. In the modern era, social entrepreneurship may be combined with technology assets such as bringing high-speed internet connectivity to remote communities, with the intent to provide school students with more access to information and knowledge resources.
Social entrepreneurship is a way to connect you to your life’s purpose, help others find theirs, and make a difference in the world, all while eking out a living.
The development of mobile apps that speak to the needs of the community is another way social entrepreneurship is expressed. This can include giving individuals ways to alert their city administrations to such problems as burst water mains, downed powerlines, or patterns of repeated traffic accidents. There are also apps created to report infractions committed by city officials or even law enforcement, giving a voice to the community through technology. (For related reading, see “The 10 Most Successful Social Entrepreneurs”)