What is social entrepreneurship?

CJ Hayden

CJ Hayden

Social entrepreneurship is a new buzz word amongst people who want to make positive social changes locally and/or globally. But what does it mean? To find out we posed a few questions on your behalf with C.J. Hayden  the author of three books and over 300 articles on marketing, entrepreneurship, and social change. She serves as a social venture advisor to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and activists.

Saad & Shaw: How do you define social entrepreneurship?

CJ Hayden: There probably as many different definitions for this term as there are people who use it. Some define a social entrepreneurship venture as one operated by a nonprofit organization that earns a substantial portion of its income by selling products and services. Others define social entrepreneurship more broadly as any enterprise dedicated to the public good that uses business methods to generate revenue, regardless of whether the entity is for-profit or nonprofit. And some define the term more broadly still, labeling as a social entrepreneur anyone who uses innovative strategies to address social problems on a replicable scale, regardless of whether they are using an income-earning model at all.

This last definition is the one that I favor. Just as a business entrepreneur creates monetary value by applying creative solutions to problems in the marketplace, a social entrepreneur creates social value by introducing changes with the potential to produce a lasting benefit to society.

Saad & Shaw: Can you share some examples of individuals or organizations that are social entrepreneurs?

CJ Hayden: Examples of well-known social entrepreneurs in history include Florence Nightingale, who established nursing as a respected profession, and launched the first-ever nursing school. Another example would be conservationist John Muir, who established the National Park System and helped found the Sierra Club. Social entrepreneurs active today include:

  • Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank, which provides collateral-free microloans to impoverished people in Bangladesh
  • Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, which brings new college graduates into low-income schools as full-time teachers
  • Fabio Rosa, whose innovations have brought affordable electric power to rural Brazil
  • Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, which provides durable, solar-powered laptops to children in the developing world

Saad & Shaw: What resources are available for people who want to learn more about social entrepreneurship?

CJ Hayden: Ashoka, www.ashoka.org, provides resources and support for social entrepreneurs and people who wish to assist their efforts.

SocialEdge, www.socialedge.org, a project of the Skoll Foundation. Their website and newsletter provide a wealth of free information.

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, a book by  David Bornstein

Find out more about C.J. at www.cjhayden.com.

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