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Social entrepreneurship is the work of a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital <>. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals. However, whilst social entrepreneurs are most commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors, this need not necessarily be incompatible with making a profit. See also Corporate Social Entrepreneurship.



The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship were used first in the literature on social change in the 1960 and 1970s.[1] The terms came into widespread use in the 1980s and 1990s, promoted by Bill Drayton the founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public,[2] and others such as Charles Leadbeater.[3] From the 1950s to the 1990s Michael Young was a leading promoter of social enterprise 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 a series of Schools for Social Entrepreneurs in the UK. Another British social entrepreneur is Lord Mawson OBE. Andrew Mawson was given a peerage in 2007 because of his pioneering regeneration work. This includes the creation of the renowned Bromley by Bow Centre in East London. He has recorded these experiences in his book "The Social Entrepreneur: Making Communities Work" [4] and currently runs Andrew Mawson Partnerships to help promote his regeneration work.[5]

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 successfully straddled the civic, governmental, and business worlds - promoting ideas that were taken up by mainstream public services in welfare, schools, and health care.

Current practice

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.[6] 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.[7] In some countries - including Bangladesh and to a lesser extent, the USA - 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.

In India, a social entrepreneur can be a person, who is the founder, co-founder or a chief functionary (may be president, secretary, treasurer, chief executive officer (CEO), or chairman) of a social enterprise, which primarily is a NGO, which raises funds through some services (often fund raising events and community activities) and occasionally products. Rippan Kapur of Child Rights and You and Jyotindra Nath of Youth United, are such examples of social entrepreneurs, who are the founders of the respective organizations.

Another excellent example of a non-profit social enterprise in India is Rang De[1]. Founded by Ramakrishna and Smita Ram in January 2008, Rang De is a peer-to-peer online platform that makes low-cost micro-credit accessible to both the rural and urban poor in India. Individuals get to directly invest in borrowers from across India, track their investments online and receive regular repayments, with a token 2% pa. ROI.

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.

In the UK in 2002 seven leading nonprofit organisations established UnLtd - The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs. It holds a £100 million endowment especially to invest in social entrepreneurs in the UK. UnLtd provides individuals with cash awards and practical support that includes coaching, training, and networking opportunities to help develop community projects. UnLtd Ventures is the in-house consultancy division of UnLtd and focuses on a number of outstanding social entrepreneurs, providing them with business support and helping them to scale up or replicate their organisations or get investment ready. Another of their operations, UnLtd Research, is becoming the world's primary source of evidence and thinking around social entrepreneurship. Its central purpose is to lead the global business, public policy, and academic debates about the role of social entrepreneurship in community regeneration, employment, and growth strategies.

The George Foundation's Women's Empowerment program empowers women by providing education, cooperative farming, vocational training, savings planing, 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.[8] Profits from the farm are used for improving the economic status of the workers and for running the other charitable activities of the foundation.[8]

Some have created for-profit organizations. A recent example is Vikram Akula founder CEO of SKS Microfinance, the McKinsey alumnus who started a microlending venture 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. Another great example is the activity of Brent Freeman, Norma LaRosa, and Nick Reder the co-founders of MARCsMovement [2] an online retail site for Moral And Responsible Companies (MARCs) that donates 5% of every sale to nonprofits in the U.S. that help teach today's youth to be the leaders of tomorrow. This online site aims to empower everyday online shoppers to make a difference in the world around them through everyday purchases.

There are continuing arguments over precisely who counts as a social entrepreneur. 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, Root Cause, the Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, New Profit Inc., and Echoing Green among others, focus on highlighting these hidden change-makers who are scattered throughout the world. 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.

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.[9] 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. About Face International [3] has a program that promotes youth social entrepreneurship amongst middle school, high school, and college students by providing interest-free loans, grants, and mentorship. They also help middle schools, high schools, and colleges form youth social entrepreneurship after school clubs on site. The MARCsMovement [4] business model parallels such an approach by "paying it forward" with their commitment to help educate today's youth about the fundamentals of socially responsible businesses so that they may become progressive leaders of tomorrow.

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."[10] In 2009, BusinessWeek followed suit, publishing a review of American's twenty-five most promising social entrepreneurs, defined as "enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems."[11]

See also

Further reading

  • 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, 2006. ISBN 1403996644
  • 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


  1. ^ For example, the phrase was used as a description of Robert Owen in J Banks, The Sociology of Social Movements, London, MacMillan, 1972
  2. ^ "The Social Entrepreneur Bill Drayton". US News & World Report. 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  3. ^ 'The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, Demos, London, 1996
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 2006". Nobel Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  7. ^ "Business-Social Ventures Reaching for Major Impact". Changemakers. 11-2003. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  8. ^ a b Marianne Bray, For Rural Women, Land Means Hope,, 2005-10-03. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  9. ^ Sheila Kinkade, Christina Macy, Our Time Is Now: Young People Changing the World, ISBN 0977231909
  10. ^ "25 Entrepreneurs who are changing the world". Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  11. ^ America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs

External links

  • MA in Social Entrepreneurship at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai[5]

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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Social Entrepreneurship is an emerging field of inquiry and therefore there is no one preferred definition.

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Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship

  • Social entrepreneurship is innovative, social value-creating activity
  • Unique solution to a social problem
  • Huge social impact crossing regions and national borders
  • Replicable and sustainable
  • It occurs within or across the non-profit, business and public sectors
  • Dynamic process created and managed by an individual
  • Strives to exploit social innovation with an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Create new social value in the market and community.

Suggested Generic Definitions

Social entrepreneurship is ...

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