What is Social Entrepreneurship ?


Social Entrepreneurship is “the products of individuals, organisations, and networks which challenge conventional structures. Social Entrepreneurship addresses failures – and identifies new opportunities – in the institutional arrangements that cause the inadequate provision or unequal distribution of social and environmental goods” (Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship).

It is also defined by the Skoll Centre “as any activity that displays three key characteristics:

  • Social focus. The primary intent of the individual, network or organisation is to generate a public good.
  • Innovation. A social entrepreneur may develop new products or services, use existing products and services in new, more socially productive ways, or redefine social problems and suggest radical new ideas to solve them.
  • Market-orientation. A social entrepreneur adopts a performance-driven, outward-looking and competitive approach to solving social and environmental problems.

Is there any difference between Social Entrepreneurship and Charity & Social Movements?

Social Entrepreneurship includes “making use of commercial markets or commercial approaches to solve social problems. While the first two criteria have applied to many charities and social movements over the ages, the third characteristic, “market orientation”, is a more recent development.

Who is the social entrepreneur?

The social entrepreneurs are characterised as “essential drivers of innovation and progress. In the business world, they act as engines of growth, harnessing opportunity and innovation to fuel economic advancement. Social entrepreneurs act similarly, tapping inspiration and creativity, courage and fortitude, to seize opportunities that challenge and forever change established, but fundamentally inequitable, systems.

Is there any difference between a business entrepreneur?

Distinct from a business entrepreneur who sees value in the creation of new markets, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of transformational change that will benefit disadvantaged communities and ultimately society at large. Social entrepreneurs pioneer innovative and systemic approaches for meeting the needs of the marginalised, the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised – populations that lack the financial means or political clout to achieve lasting benefit on their own.

Are social entrepreneurship and social enterprise the same thing?

“There are two recognised types of social entrepreneurship. The first, generally known as “social enterprise”, focuses on finding commercial solutions to social and environmental problems. The second, “social innovation”, is to do with developing new ideas, methodologies, models and technologies in order to solve social and environmental problems.

Social entrepreneurship = or ≠ of Corporate Social Responsability?

Most corporate social responsibility is carried out by organisations primarily concerned with maximising profit and delivering a return to shareholders. The social and environmental commitments of these organisations are secondary”. So, it does not count as Social entrepreneurship.

When did Social Entrepreneurship start and how fast is it growing?

“Professor Greg Dees and a small group of colleagues at Harvard University founded the academic field of social entrepreneurship in the mid-1990s, and since then it has spread rapidly. The field is still young and as yet there is little data on the numbers of social entrepreneurs working on the ground or on their impact. However, there are some trends we can point to which give an indication of how the field is growing.

The first course on social entrepreneurship was taught by Greg Dees in the late 1990s. In contrast, there are now 61 institutions in 17 countries which offer courses on social entrepreneurship or have institutes researching the field (source: Ashoka’s Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Resources Handbook, March 2008). Courses are still mainly based in the US and Europe, but are spreading to the developing world. For example, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai recently developed the first Masters in Social Entrepreneurship in India. Concurrently, academic research into social entrepreneurship is increasing. Ashoka lists over 800 different journal articles and 200 cases now used in social entrepreneurship courses, giving an indication of the research output of academics in the field.

Participation in civil society organisations is increasing dramatically around the world. In Indonesia, for example, the number of known environmental organisations grew from one in 1983 to over 2,000 in 1997 (source: Bornstein, 2004); in Brazil, the number of citizen groups grew from probably less than 5,000 to 400,000 registered in the 20 years after the military withdrew (source: Bornstein, 2004); in the UK, the sector’s contribution to GDP grew 260 per cent from 1991 to 2001 (source: NCVO, 2004); and in the US, the number of citizen sector organisations almost tripled from 1982 to 2002 (source: Weitzman, 2002). However, these statistics tell us little about how many of these organisations are innovative or market oriented, or about what impact they have had on people’s lives” (Skoll Centre).

Source: Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

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