Social Entrepreneurship Is On The Rise

by K. MacKillop

A social entrepreneur is a business owner who uses their business acumen to further some social cause. Social entrepreneurism is often thought to be limited to nonprofit organizations, but in fact a push toward “more-than-profit” ventures is on the rise. That is, entrepreneurs are starting for-profit businesses that benefit both the owners’ personal wealth and social change. Social entrepreneurship business models are developing rapidly and are likely to be a key innovation that comes out of the current economic recession.

The factors that brought us to this place economically include the old standard of business — more profit for those at the top, regardless of the cost. Well, the cost has been revealed in the form of massive unemployment, dramatic foreclosure rates, and economic distress for nearly everyone . . . except those few at the top. The effect of this is likely to be a stronger emphasis on doing the right thing and exacting social change. Entrepreneurs will lead this charge, as they always do, by using innovative entrepreneurial techniques to address wide-ranging social issues. Social entrepreneurs are not limited to the far left — the disaffected will emerge from every belief system, political persuasion, and every walk of life. From urban centers to rural America, the new social entrepreneurs will start for-profit businesses with an eye on helping to resolve social issues through business practices, philanthropy, and providing products and services to address whatever problems are closest to the owners’ hearts.

Social entrepreneurship is not a new concept. The term was first introduced in mostly academic, social-change focused literature in the early 1970s. It gained popularity through the 80s and early 90s, as entrepreneurs began using their knowledge and skills to encourage new ideas and the betterment of society through their business endeavors. More than likely, the next decade will show a dramatic re-emergence of these ideas, as people find ways to improve their own financial status while contributing to the improvement of society as a whole.

Currently, both Fast Company and BusinessWeek magazines publish annual lists of the best or most promising social entrepreneurs. Fast Company defines social entrepreneurs as those “…using the disciplines of the corporate world to tackle daunting social problems.” BusinessWeek’s definition is similar: “enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems.” Check out either website for more information on how these entrepreneurs are making a difference through their businesses.

Wanting to “be part of the solution” no longer means that you are relegated to low-paying, spinning-your-wheels jobs in the nonprofit sector. In fact, many entrepreneurs are finding that it is easier to exact change from within the for-profit zone. Successful entrepreneurs wield significant power within both their local and industry communities, and that power can be effective in both changing minds and encouraging participation in social issues. Any type of business can incorporate social entrepreneurship ideas (except, of course, for scams and get-rich-quick schemes). Whether “going green” or sponsoring local charities, there are hundreds of ways to build your business, and your personal wealth, with the greater good in mind.

About the Author – K. MacKillop, a serial entrepreneur with a J.D. from Duke University, is founder of LaunchX and authors a blog focused on starting a business. Whether you are thinking of starting a non-profit or a for-profit business, the LaunchX System can help you work step-by-step through the process. It includes step-by-step business startup procedures, small business software & more, to help entrepreneurs start a business based on their idea.

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