The Schwabb Foundation defines Social Entrepreneurship in the following way.
Social entrepreneurship is:
• About applying practical, innovative and sustainable approaches to benefit society in general, with an emphasis on those who are marginalized and poor.
• A term that captures a unique approach to economic and social problems, an approach that cuts across sectors and disciplines grounded in certain values and processes that are common to each social entrepreneur, independent of whether his/her area of focus has been education, health, welfare reform, human rights, workers’ rights, environment, economic development, agriculture, etc., or whether the organizations they set up are non-profit or for-profit entities.
• It is this approach that sets the social entrepreneur apart from the rest of the crowd of well-meaning people and organizations who dedicate their lives to social improvement.
This type entrepreneurship isn’t an entirely new concept, but it has taken new heights with a millennial market particularly invested in working, buying and donating to organizations that do more for the big picture.
So what steps can you start taking today to move your organization towards a vision of social entrepreneurship? It’s going to partially depend on your current model.
If your organization wasn’t initially formed as a Social Entrepreneurship Venture, this may be a good time to revisit your mission and values. What do you care about? What do your employees care about? How can your organization work towards encouraging those values that matter to you?
Consider topics you believe in and that you think would make the world a better place. Social Entrepreneurship should not be a marketing gimmick or a strategy to attract more of the type of employees you are looking for. It is an opportunity to take an insightful look at your business and make genuine changes that will help with long-term sustainability while creating a stronger workplace, an improved corporate brand, and a meaningful new approach to conducting business.
You might think “Well, if we are a non-profit we are already involved in social entrepreneurship, aren’t we?”
That is certainly the case when it comes to the mission, but are you actually engaging the cross section of society most affected by what you are trying to solve? And while doing so, are you engaging private and public organizations, to drive forward the innovation through a multiplier effect?
The key concept here is to reduce dependence on grants and enhance your longer term sustainability through partners that have a vested interest in the continuation of your mission. It may also be a good time to make sure your values are expressed internally and not just externally, in how you hire and work with your employees and volunteers.
Similar to non-profits, you have a mission to serve your constituents and provide them with the resources to enrich their education and access to technology on multiple levels. But are your staff members motivated, engaged and feeling like they are an intrinsic part of the success of the community they serve? Do you struggle obtaining funding? How many public/private partnerships have you accomplished that could increase your impact?
Social Entrepreneurs possess an unwavering belief in the innate capacity of all people to meaningfully contribute to economic and social development, and it is key for your staff members to feel they are part of that type of team. A team that is motivated by social change has a driving passion to make that happen and is not constrained by ideology or field of discipline.
For all organizations it is also important to have a zeal to measure and monitor impact, so that you can properly respond to the community, customers, and partners with which you engage. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, are their key tools, guiding continuous feedback and improvement.