WHAT IS A SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR?
A social entrepreneur is someone with a business head and a social heart. They use the skills, creativity and drive of a successful business entrepreneur and apply them to delivering transformational change in society. Innovative in addressing social needs, they are passionate about making a difference to communities and those who live in them. They are people from many different walks of life, with a track record of making things happen.
EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The term 'social entrepreneurship' entered common parlance in the 1980s, through the work of luminaries such as Bill Drayton, founder of Arthur Guinness Fund™ partner organisation Ashoka. Whilst the terminology may be recent, there have been examples of social entrepreneurship throughout history. During the 19th and 20th Centuries, pioneering social entrepreneurs succeeded in bridging the divide between civic, political and business worlds and introduced ideas that have since become part of the mainstream. For instance, Florence Nightingale could be described as an early social entrepreneur – she founded the first school of nursing and helped to shape modern nursing practices and improve hospital conditions.
In today's uncertain world, it is essential that the brightest social entrepreneurial talent is identified early and given all the support required to bring about positive change.
The Arthur Guinness Fund™ is proud to play a role in promoting the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Could you be one of them?
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP: ONE STEP AT A TIME
There are as many 'how to get started' stories as there are social entrepreneurs, and there is obviously no 'right' way or formula for aspiring changemakers. The experience of Ashoka's Fellows - leading social entrepreneurs from around the world - illustrates a few tips we share with you.
Follow your passion
Sure, there are many problems out there in the world and in your community. Somebody ought to do something about them, and that 'somebody' should be you. What do you truly care about? What makes you angry? What are your unique talents? What issue speaks to your heart or affects you personally? Most social entrepreneurs find their energy in their own experience of injustice or other social and environmental issues. It will be this reservoir of passion, of anger, of empathy, that will inspire your vision, inform your action, and keep you going when the going gets tough.
Bart Weetjens had a childhood passion for Africa, and for pet rodents. Find out how he brought them together: *
Look under the hood
If social issues were easy to solve, the chances are they would have already been sorted out. Beneath most problems there are usually multiple factors and interests at play. Often well intended charitable approaches only scrape the surface of an issue - such as poverty. Understanding the systems, the root causes of issues, the stakeholders and their roles will help you avoid wasting your efforts and design better solutions.
Faisel Rahman was concerned about the vicious circle of poverty, debt and marginalisation. His solution, Fair Finance, breaks the cycle of poverty through credit and financial education: *
Check out the field
Chances are, whatever the cause you're trying to solve, you're neither alone nor the first to propose your idea. What other organisations exist out there, and what solutions have been attempted? What can you learn from them? You might save yourself a lot of time by identifying existing ideas and even potential partners instead of reinventing the wheel.
Changemakers.com is Ashoka's online 'open-source' platform for sharing knowledge and experiences across a number of fields. Through 'collaborative competitions', participants are encouraged to explore, share and give feedback to like-minded social entrepreneurs who share their goals. http://www.changemakers.com/
Make a plan. Ditch the plan
You need a business plan, right? Everybody needs a business plan. But the one thing every entrepreneur finds out, sooner or later, is that things never go according to plan. What's plan B? And C? As important as a business plan is to assess your viability and sell your initiative to potential investors, it is equally important to learn from experience and creatively adapt to everything that reality throws at you.
Luke Dowdney launched Luta Pela Paz in Brazil, using boxing as a discipline to attract children involved in gang violence in the slums of Rio. After exploring a few options to generate a sustainable source of revenue, he launched a sportswear and lifestyle clothing brand, Luta.*
Structure comes later
Many aspiring social entrepreneurs rush to create and register their company - whether a charity, for profit business or CIC, assuming this is a necessary first step, along with an office and business cards. They will put a lot of time and energy into this before any actual impact is achieved, and may regret choices made prematurely. What structure you will need will depend on choices of services or products offered, types of funding available and other factors you cannot possibly know before you start. With so many inspirational social entrepreneurs' stories beginning in a bedroom or a café, with support of only family, friends and fools, make sure you have your priorities straight!
Annys Darkwa began working on what would become Vision Housing in a toilet converted into an office, inside a prison. Vision Housing guarantees safe accommodation for newly released prisoners, setting them on a path to successful reintegration into society.
Did we already say that you are not alone? A social entrepreneur will often feel lonely and risks burning out if he or she does not learn to build support. You may be the person that cares the most in this world about what you're trying to achieve, but if you don't find and cultivate the support you need, your chance of success is slim. Ask yourself: who shares my interest in this cause? Who will benefit from it? Build a team of teams, including volunteers, potential supporters and staff members, when you are ready to hire. Never ever forget to listen to those most affected, whether they are your clients or beneficiaries.
Ken Banks created a mobile phone based solution that offers thousands of NGOs the communication tools they need to work in the hardest to reach areas. He expanded his reach by nurturing an independent community of developers that adapted his tool to new areas, such as microfinance, agriculture and health.
Keep your eye on the ball
With so much to do and so little time, focus is essential. Distractions disguised as opportunities are everywhere, so reflect on a regular basis on what you want to achieve and what is important. Be prepared to revise your priorities when real opportunity knocks, but keep track of what is essential. Tracking your progress and giving serious thought to impact measurement will pay off the extra energy it requires.
Phil Conway, social entrepreneur beyond Cool2Care, has a vision for care for families with disabled children that is both more accessible and of better quality.
Tell your story
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. If you want to be listened to, if you need support, if your cause is worthy, you must get it out to who needs to hear it. Think about the story and the best way to tell it, and ask for feedback. Whether it is writing a blog, tweeting, event marketing or other means, take the time to reach out to make sure other people follow your message.
Jack Sim feels indignation that more than 2 billion people don't have access to proper toilets. He believes that the current policy debate obscures this pressing issue, and he created the World Toilet Organisation to refocus the agenda and communicate the problem.
The sky is the limit
A social entrepreneur will never be satisfied with what he or she has achieved. True entrepreneurs are often bored by the routine of managing an organisation, especially when things are going well. Ashoka challenges the leading social entrepreneurs to reach impact at least at a national level, then beyond. There is always room for innovation and growth, and our solutions need to be designed to the scale of the problem. Will you persist until you have reached your full potential? Will you consider handing over your initiative to a competent team and starting up another idea, as a true entrepreneur?
Serial social entrepreneur, Oded Grajew, created Brazil's largest children's rights foundation, Fundacao Abrinq. He went on to found and lead the country's association for socially responsible business, Instituto Ethos, and - in his spare time - co-founded the World Social Forum, as a citizen alternative to the World Economic Forum that meets annually in Davos. As a serial social entrepreneur, he just keeps going!
Give yourself permission - everyone's a changemaker!
There is a spirit of 'just do it' in every entrepreneur that sets them apart from most people. Not everyone needs to become a social entrepreneur, but everyone can - and should - become a changemaker, creating positive change where it matters most to them.
Your story here!