The shifting image of social entrepreneurship


The classic definition of social entrepreneurship is an enterprise which makes a profit by providing a solution to a social problem. But this is not always strictly true.  Social enterprise takes many forms, only some of which generate any kind of profit or revenue.

Some companies take advantage of government funding, public and private grants and sponsorships to address a social problem.  Other social enterprises engage the same resources to help people in need set up and/or sustain their own businesses.

There are also businesses such as TOM’S Shoes or the Newman’s Own Foundation which take some of their profits and use them for charity.  These types of companies have been defined, for example by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, as “corporate philanthropists”.

There are other charitable organisations such as my own Vana Trust or Shining Hope for Communities which, in my opinion, do great work with underprivileged women and children (therefore impacting the whole community) in Africa. These are pretty much traditional charitable models but often help to create business opportunities for the less fortunate. Furthermore, there are alternative models such as Divine Chocolate which focus on ethical cooperation with local producers or manufacturers.

So one could say that the diversity of business models under the umbrella of social entrepreneurship is constantly in a state of flux as people continuously come up with new ways to solve problems. And although social enterprise covers a seriously large range of business models and can’t really be boiled down to any one way of doing business, it’s clear that there is a common denominator. It is a social mission: the desire to leave a positive imprint on business by helping to create a better world for all.

If you, like me, share this desire, join me in my upcoming event:

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