Social Entrepreneurs

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Cited from the Wikipedia at


"Social entrepreneurship is the work of a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society and often work through nonprofits and citizen groups.

The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship, first coined by Bill Drayton, have become increasingly popular over the past quarter century, but social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship can be found throughout history. A list of a few historically noteworthy people whose work exemplifies classic "social entrepreneurship" might include Florence Nightingale, founder of the first nursing school and developer of modern nursing practices, Vinoba Bhave (founder of India's Land Gift Movement), and Shri Hedgewar (founder of Rashtriya Swaymsevaka Sangh).

Another good contemporary example of a social entrepreneur is Muhammad Yunus, founder and manager of Grameen Bank and its growing family of social venture businesses, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The work of Yunus and Grameen echos a theme among modern day social entrepreneurs that emphasizes the enormous synergies and benefits when business principles are unified with social ventures.

In this context we can also mention Vikram Akula founder CEO of SKS Microfinance , the McKinsey alumni started a microlending venture in villages of Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.Though this venture is For - Profit but already initiated a sharp social change amongst poor women from villages.

Today, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, foundations, governments and individuals promote, fund, and advise social entrepreneurs around the planet. A growing number of colleges and universities are establishing programs focused on educating and training social entrepreneurs." (

Definition of Social Entreprise

From the Wikipedia article at

"Social enterprises are organizations which trade in goods or services, and link that trade to a social mission. The need to deliver on financial, social and environmental performance targets is often referred to as having a triple bottom line.

It could be that the profit (or surplus) from the business is used to support related or unrelated social aims (as in a charity shop), or that the business itself accomplishes the social aim through its operation, say through the employment of people from a disadvantaged community including individuals and existing business who have difficulty in securing investment from banks and mainstream lenders.

Social enterprise is a relatively new term for a type of business that has existed for at least a century. The term social enterprise relates to social entrepreneur, the name originally given to 19th century philanthropic businessmen and industrialists, who had genuine concern for the welfare of their employees. Today, its use varies in different regions.

Social enterprises are generally held to comprise the more businesslike end of the spectrum of organisations that make up the third sector or social economy). A commonly-cited rule of thumb is that at least half their income is derived from trading rather than from subsidy or donations." (



Organizations such as Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the Skoll Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, Echoing Green, the Manhattan Institute, the Draper Richards Foundation and Civic Ventures among others, focus on highlighting these hidden change-makers who are scattered across the country and globe. Even so, there remains a vast social terrain that continues to go largely unreported in most news. While the growth in social entrepreneurship today is huge, it is one of the least understood, yet most important forces in the world today." (


"In 1971, Mimi Silbert founded the Delancey Street Foundation, the “university of the streets.” Delancey Street is an educational center for former junkies, pimps, prostitutes, robbers, and others. It has blossomed into a multi-million dollar enterprise that has helped tens of thousands turn their lives around.

In 1983, Nobel Peace prize winner Mohammad Yunus created Grameen Bank, which lends to the poor. Billions of dollars in loans have been given by Grameen — and repaid. And millions of people have benefited from these “microloans.”

Both of these are examples of social entrepreneurship — when an entrepreneur focuses not just on profit, but on solving a social problem. Delancey Street and Grameen Bank are scalable, revenue-generating ways to help the poor." (



"Mr Goldsmith says that society is on the threshold of the fourth stage of how it addresses its thorniest problems. In stage one, at the start of the 20th century, caring for people was largely left to families and charities. In the second stage, marked by the welfare state in Britain and the Great Society in America, the government took on the job of ending poverty. Private efforts were largely crowded out. In stage three the state tried to foster partnerships with the private sector through competitive outsourcing, but although this sometimes made a big difference (as in Indianapolis), too often the partnerships were too prescriptive and highly focused on cost-cutting. In the fourth stage government will tap the ability of the private sector, for-profit and non-profit, to deliver “disruptive, transformative innovation”. (

2. Christian Arnsperger:

The notion of the entrepreneur is critical to capitalism but it is again focused on individualism. Arnsperger is also on this bandwagon in this paper, "The social entrepreneurship movement":

"It would be quite wrong, however, to infer from what I have just said that I object to the idea of entrepreneurship. I don’t—in fact, I believe it is the way of the future. What do object to is the idea that capitalist entrepreneurship, which includes consumerism as a 'self entrepreneurial' endeavor, is the final word. In that sense, I share a lot of the optimism that has recently been expressed by various advocates of a new kind of entrepreneurship: social entrepreneurship.

"The idea of social enterprise...puts faith in the fact that solutions to social problems can emerge from the decentralized interactions of agents on the shop floor, so to speak. Social entrepreneurship is essentially a bottom-up affair. At the same time, there is a rejuvenation of the very notion of an entrepreneur: not just someone who finds new ideas that can help some shareholders or capitalists make a maximum profit, and not just someone who is able to maximally 'fit in' with the requisites of workaholism and consumerism, but someone who undertakes a risky, uncertain task for the benefit of others, measured by the degree in which 'market failures' as well as 'government failures' get resolved. A social entrepreneur is still, in a sense, a 'self-entrepreneur' because s/he engages in his/her activity in part out of personal joy and enthusiasm—but, precisely, this joy and enthusiasm seem often to come 'from somewhere else,' from a kind of a conversion experience (some even use the word 'epiphany') rooted in a newly acquired existential lucidity: life has little meaning in the profit-making treadmill, and the needs expressed on so-called 'underserved markets' cry out through the voices of the poor and the vulnerable. The social entrepreneur is looking for alternative ways of financing and organizing a production or service-provision activity so that s/he can be highly effective in terms of his/her non-market, non-government activity (provide high-quality education to the poor, solve a difficult local environmental problem, etc.) while at least breaking even on the financial side.

"This is a minimally capitalist market economy with social entrepreneurs and a facilitating government—the dream of front-line social democrats. No wonder it raises enthusiasm. It’s the best chance we ever had of significant post-capitalist advance without revolution and without planning."

More Information

  1. 25 Best Social Entrepreneurship websites
  2. Radical Social Entrepreneurs

Recommended books

By SSIR [1]:

  • A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability

By Vikram Akula, reviewed by Jonathan C. Lewis

Akula tells the story behind SKS Microfinance—a social enterprise that, in a controversial move after the book’s publication, became the second microfinance institution to sell shares of the company to the public. The book offers some fundamental insights for social entrepreneurs, and as SSIR reviewer Lewis writes, “In the end, Akula reveals himself to be the quintessential entrepreneur: pragmatic, persistent, a bit pushy, and—as he himself admits—egotistically overconfident. This, it turns out, is a winning combination.”

  • The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

By Jacqueline Novogratz

Novogratz tells a personal story about her career from international banker to social entrepreneur to founder and CEO of the nonprofit Acumen Fund, which invests patient capital in companies tackling global poverty. Novogratz shares both her mistakes and successes, and, in a particularly moving section, discusses her experiences in Rwanda before and after the genocide.

  • Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan (2012)

By Max Alexander

Alexander tells the story of his brother Whit’s quest to bring environmentally safer, rechargeable batteries to the developing world, specifically Ghana. SSIR reviewer Goldman describes the book as "a rollicking and detailed recounting of what it takes to build a business in a country with no retail infrastructure. … More important to budding social entrepreneurs, the story illuminates the challenges many social enterprises face, and the important trade-offs between developing products and delivering products affordably and sustainably to families living on a few dollars per day."

  • Getting to Bartlett Street: Our 25-Year Quest to Level the Playing Field in Education

By Joe and Carol Reich

“Families of means can afford to send their children to private schools or relocate to a neighborhood of affluence where the public schools have greater resources. The poor cannot. We recoiled against this injustice. We made it our own struggle.” This book describes how the Reiches’ personal struggle with inequality in education led to the Beginning with Children Foundation, which opened the first charter-like, independent public school in New York City in 1992. The authors also share the many lessons they learned along the way.

  • Hotel Africa: The Politics of Escape

By G. Pascal Zachary

In 2000, after three hours of interviews with a group of young African soldiers about war and killing, Zachary asked to see something of Africa that was beautiful. So begins his journey to find and tell a different story of Africa, "... to explain forces that act on African affairs in often unrecognized ways … [and] celebrate concrete, commonplace African realities—realities that invite us to understand and engage Africa and Africans more deeply, and on a far more equal basis than we achieve by approaching Africans as objects of sympathy or assistance."

  • KaBOOM! How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play

By Darell Hammond

The organization that Hammond started to create outdoor space for kids in 1995 has met with remarkable success—it’s built more than 2,000 new playgrounds, and has a million volunteers and a $20 million operating budget. His book describes this amazing journey to scale. It also, as Connolly says, “… tells an uplifting story about how he took the organization to scale and matured as a manager, advocate, and leader. … By reading it, social entrepreneurs … will get some solid, practical advice about how to grow a social enterprise, adapt programs and operations along the way, and amplify impact.”

  • The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on The Brink Of Change

By Roger Thurow

In his SSIR introduction to this book, Thurow writes: "In the emergency feeding tents of Ethiopia, I found my passion and developed a single-minded pursuit of the story that had come to seem more important to me than any other: Why were people still dying of hunger at the beginning of the new Millennium when the world was producing—and wasting—more food than ever before?" In this story, Thurow chronicles his year spent with four Kenyan farmers who struggle to grow enough food to support their families, then decide to form of an agricultural cooperative through One Acre Fund. Read an introduction by the author.

  • Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power, A Memoir

By Wael Ghonim

A riveting memoir by Google marketing executive and Egyptian revolutionary Wael Ghonim, this book traces his personal journey to becoming an Internet activist who helped spark the Jan. 25, 2011 uprising. SSIR reviewer Silfry calls his story “… an inspiring illustration of a trend. That is, how a new generation that is growing up networked keeps spawning ‘free radicals’—people who teach themselves how to use technology to build community, share powerful messages, and ultimately weave movements for social change.” (