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Ideas are the Only Currency in the New Economy

Introductory Guide to Social Entrepreneurship

January 4th, 2012 · No Comments · Social Good

Big Ideas:

  • Social Entrepreneurship is about focusing on making the world a better place, not just profit maximization.
  • Entrepreneurs have a choice of socially good versus socially destructive business activity. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

There are many ways to make a living. You could sell gourmet pet food to rich yuppies. You can market $97 get rich quick schemes on the Internet. You canĀ  promote the latest abdominal exercise machine on TV promising 6-pack abs with only 5 minutes a day. Maybe you could start a cup cake business selling $5 sugar highs. There are far too many businesses that are a net drain on society, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is possible to do good AND earn a profit. Unfortunately, economics has put the goal of profit maximization above everything else. Imagine a world where businesses maximized social good instead. Profits are important, if you lose money for too long you will go out of business, but no one needs private jets, luxury yachts and $200,000 cars – levels of profits, particularly when so much of the world lacks basic access to food, health care and education.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that you have to forsake profits for social good either. What if you could get rich doing good in the world? Money can pervert incentives to create real societal value, but there are businesses prospering with a heavy social good focus. That is what social entrepreneurship is about, using entrepreneurial and business skills towards making the world a better place.

Social Entrepreneurship Links

Social Entrepreneurship on Wikipedia.

A social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change (a social venture). While a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals.

Grameen Bank
Noble Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus’s micro loan bank funding rural poor. One of the most famous examples of social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship on
Examples of social entrepreneurs, lesson plans for teachers, and many great links for further research.

Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at The Duke Fuqua School of Business.
Social entrepreneurship case studies, academic research and other resources.

Skoll Foundation
Leading social entrepreneurship foundation with over $250 million in funding for social entrepreneurs. Many examples of social entrepreneurs.
One of the largest and most famous organizations that invests in social entrepreneurs around the world.

Acumen Fund
Invests in entrepreneurial approaches to solving global poverty.

Umair Haque
Harvard Business School professor and leading thinker on the need for socially productive business and economic activity. (A Skoll Foundation program.)
Great articles on social entrepreneurship and related topics.

Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation
Provides funding, resources, and mentorship for social entrepreneurs under 40 years old in Canada.

Social Entrepreneurship on
Links to the latest posts from many leading social entrepreneurship blogs and websites.
Articles, interviews with social entrepreneurs, marketing tutorials and more. Very comprehensive site.

School for Social Entrepreneurs
UK based training programs for social entrepreneurs.

Public Radio International Social Entrepreneurship Podcast

Social Innovation Conversations
Large selection of podcasts on social entrepreneurship.

Action Items

  • Ask yourself, is your business making the world a better place or are you selling toxic products and services that are a net drain to society and the environment?
  • If you are not happy with that first answer, what can you do to change it?
  • Read about social entrepreneurs in the links above to see what is possible if you put your mind to it. You might just make the world a little better place.




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