Over the years, as we have worked closely with college students, military Veterans, and early stage entrepreneurs, it has become increasingly apparent that one commonality shared by all is a desire to have a stronger sense of purpose with what we do with our lives. It is this desire to offer solutions for the biggest societal challenges that we face, and in so doing, heal the divisive wounds that separate so many people from one another, and that has fueled increased interest in social enterprising over the past decade or so. The one thing that most people can agree on is a general commitment and desire to make the world around us better. Ashoka, a global advocacy group for social entrepreneurship, describes social entrepreneurs as "individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges." Social entrepreneurs typically work on developing a business model that leverages profits for social good. Most businesses are able to identify a societal impact that can be built into the business itself. One of the main advantages of a for profit social enterprise is having a never ending benefactor in paying customers that enables the social entrepreneurial venture to impact the societal problem being addressed, in a sustainable fashion. Another advantage of social enterprises is the ability to differentiate one business from a competitor that may not be as focused on addressing societal challenges. Many consumers prefer to do business with a company that are willing to look beyond profits alone, and understand that we live in an interconnected ecosystem, where relationships matter, and thinking long term about the impact a business can have.
Some people use the terms social enterprise, nonprofit, social entrepreneurship, and social innovation when referencing social businesses. There is actually some distinctions between these terms, as outlined in this article, which does a good job providing an overview. I like to think of social entrepreneurs as ChangeMakers, people that are willing to advance big innovative ideas that potentially mitigate social challenges. Social entrepreneurs can do this through a for profit business or internally as a change agent within an existing enterprise (social intrapreneur). Social enterprises speak to the organizations (for profit and nonprofit) that develop and deploy business models that leverage resources to directly take on social problems.
Social innovation is about developing, nurturing, testing and implementing innovative ideas that are additive. These can be new products or services, but most often are variants of existing product/service offerings that build upon past innovation. What makes these ideas social innovation is that the primary benefit of these innovations transfers to society and specific challenges presented there. For example, many fintech apps (i.e. Acorns, Betterment etc.) have opened the door for inexperienced investors to begin building wealth for themselves in an easy and painless manner. This social innovation transfers to society over the long run by reducing financial challenges that many people face later in life because of poor financial planning.
There are many resources available to learn more about social entrepreneurship.
1) To get started, here are a few good video resources that will help inform and hopefully inspire you to dive deeper into the world of social entrepreneurship.
2) Visit our entrepreneurship center in Ybor City -- Operation Startup, meet with one of our social entrepreneur business mentors or advisers, take a workshop about social entrepreneurship, and consider attending our first annual Social Entrepreneurship Education Day (SEED) on Saturday, October 20, 2018.
3) Explore this free online course that teaches you about the basics of social entrepreneurship.
4) Recommended readings curated by AshokaU.