Rethinking Social Entrepreneurship and Why it Matters

Janvie Amido

Ubiquitous. Yes, social entrepreneurship is ubiquitous. I first learned of social entrepreneurship a few years ago and I didn’t quite understand the whole meaning and what it is about. I thought that it is for business people who like to party. Over time, that misconception changed. However, I still cannot grasp its real meaning. Is social entrepreneurship a disruption of the status quo? What is it for? And why are majority of my friends from all over the world so inclined to it? Is social entrepreneurship a new trend?

I would like to start by quoting Esha Chhabra of Forbes, she said that “Social impact, social enterprise, impact investing, social innovation – these are all part of a new taxonomy that looks at the crossroads of business and social impact. Buzzwords, some would say. Rethink social. What has worked, what hasn’t? Why?”

I have become more drawn to social entrepreneurship because of my involvement with the Global Shapers Community – a youth wing of the World Economic Forum. Having attended the Vatican Meeting in Overcoming Social and Economic Exclusions two years ago, I was inspired to start Youth First Initiative Philippines. Youth First Initiative is a group of young individuals from different fields of expertise. It is a non-government organization focusing in economic empowerment through social entrepreneurship.

If businesses require the flow of talent, attention, capital and innovation to survive, then social entrepreneurship can be an effective mechanism to influence wider business over time. I think the ongoing debate around social enterprise is an important voice to help shape values – and establish a continuum of what social good looks like. Social enterprise is more than an organizational structure, but a mindset that can exist in both big established businesses and smaller ones.

Social capital is still small but this will grow as consumer demand grows too. We need the constant supply of new entrepreneurs entering the business community to make this happen. Social businesses needs to do its part by upholding good business practices – to steward the capital invested and utilize it wisely and sustainably. Collaborations with big businesses and its pool of specialized professionals can provide assistance and support in achieving this.

Yes, social enterprises disrupt the norm – it diverts our attention from traditional ways of doing things and the traditional purchasing mind set. Progress can then be seen – as a result of thousands of small actions by individuals including actions by those reading this. Yes – you!

Products of Hawid Palanublion, a social enterprise from Iloilo. Photo by Bryan Morit.

Products of Hawid Palanublion, a social enterprise from Iloilo. Photo by Bryan Morit.

What is social entrepreneurship and why it matters

According to my research, it is about using a market-driven business model to address key social and environmental issues and it is an emerging field with diverse and shifting interpretations in business.

Social entrepreneurship is doing business for social good. That is my understanding. It is responsive and does not rely on the shifting priorities of the government and major foundations.

Ashoka defines social entrepreneurship as “individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.” So by definition, social entrepreneurship is doing large-scale social innovation across various types of businesses.

If the purpose of the business is to address a social or environmental issue, it is a social enterprise – regardless of its ownership structure. In an article by Mr. Andy Horsnell, he said that social enterprise is a pragmatic position; the world’s problems are far too great to be creating arbitrary silos that limit participation and sharing.

Agreeing to Todres and Lewis, further work needs to focus on the ways in which the sociality of entrepreneurship contributes to bonding social capital. Additional research also needs to investigate ‘bridging social capital’– the sharing of information and resources, and support provided by individuals to others across different social groups.

Social Entrepreneurship is essential because it helps generate social value and social change. Entrepreneurship is more than an economic activity – it is social because it operates within a particular setting defined by relationships and networks.

In conclusion, the bottom line of a social enterprise, the goal by which its success should be evaluated, is in its social and environmental impact.