Social Entrepreneurship

Do you have a passion to make a difference in the world? Tap into your inner entrepreneur! You have the potential whether or not you have any knowledge or experience of business, starting things, or even working with others. All it takes is enthusiasm, a willingness to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life, and a bit of good luck.

Many of today and tomorrow’s social and environmental healers are and must be entrepreneurs. “The essence of the entrepreneurial spirit isn’t so much about money as it is about passion,” says Tetsuya O’Hara, director of advanced research and development at Patagonia, the outdoor clothing maker. “It’s a perspective that goes beyond business, forcing you to think about what matters most to you.”

What is social entrepreneurship?

So what is entrepreneurship? There are two key aspects: a) having a vision and making it real and b) organizing, managing, and assuming the risk of any enterprise or initiative.

Social entrepreneurship is doing these things in the context of addressing a societal need, some way of healing self, society, or environment. Social entrepreneurship involves having a vision of a greater good and working to make it real.

Social entrepreneurs create and run both for-profit and non-profit enterprises. They are found in many sectors, such as: consulting, financial services, venture capital, energy, housing, economic development, education, healthcare, arts and culture, and consumer products.

There is some debate about the definition of social entrepreneurship. Does the organization have to create a service or product that addresses a social need or can an organization qualify if it meets social needs in its business practice or application of profits (i.e., Ben and Jerry’s makes money by selling ice cream, then donates the profits to peace)? Presently there is no consensus definition.

Can you be an entrepreneur?

Man holding a plant and teaching children in a village.

While people are commonly characterized as either a visionary or a doer, entrepreneurs bridge this distinction—they are both. Entrepreneurs have the same psychological profile as Peace Corps volunteers—they are not primarily motivated by money, but rather by achieving their visions of a better world and the goals they set for themselves.

The following characteristics and role requirements are associated with successful entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs:

  • Drive and energy level
  • Self-confidence
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Use of resources
  • Moderate risk taking

Identifying your vision

Entrepreneurial ventures start with dreams and then achieve them through a combination of factors. Most important is belief that the dream, or some variation thereof, can and will be achieved, despite all evidence to the contrary. The truism that “your thoughts create your reality” has been embraced by starry-eyed entrepreneurs and dismissed by hard-nosed realists, for many decades. But starry-eyed or not, entrepreneurs create a vision and then work to make it real.

By listening deeply to the needs of the world around you, as well as your own dreams, you will be better equipped to define a specific, achievable goal and turn your dream into a reality.

Through social entrepreneurship, you too can become an agent of the cultural, social, or environmental change you wish to see in the world.