Commerical vs. Social Entrepreneurship

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For the past weeks Europe has opened its arms to refugees and given many of them a new home. Here's how social entrepreneurship can contribute and add value!

The nascent field of social entrepreneurship gains more and more attention as its principles are compelling to people. Its principles are within the appealing value proposition, which targets an underserved, neglected, deprived or highly disadvantaged population. These people don’t have financial means or political clout to gain anything. Their life sucks. Do they have any solution to change it on their own? Mostly not.

And here the social entrepreneurs come in. They see how the demand from these people is undersupplied and build a feasible business that can generate income and sustain itself by providing a strong value proposition. A classic example is Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and father of microcredit.

What Is Social Entrepreneurship?

Defining social entrepreneurship, it is also important to establish boundaries and provide examples of what fits or doesn’t fit the definition. In many cases the definition of social entrepreneurship is very broadly: It can be simply specified as an a professional, innovative, and sustainable approach to social problems, which mobilizes the ideas, capacities, resources and occurs within or across the non-profit, business, or government sectors.

However, I would like to propose the first boundary upon that definition. It is the scalability. For example, in Congo we recognize the high necessity for AIDS orphans, we create a school for them and do our best to take care of them as well as educate them. The problem in this case is that we can’t replicate this initiative in other places by other people. It is nothing more than a social value provision, which can’t break its limited scope of use. The second boundary might be the outstanding personality dependence. For sure, everybody knows and respects Mahatma Gandhi, Luther King for their deeds and outcomes. Although we can’t call them social entrepreneurs. Why? They gained outstanding results but they didn’t build a sustainable system, which would bring value over time and even after their death. The best is to call them social activists or leaders of thought. Whereas, social entrepreneurs are:

  • Ambitious in tackling major social issues, from increasing the college enrolment rate of low-income students to fighting poverty.
  • Social mission driven
  • Strategic in improving existing systems, creating solutions, thinking out of box and inventing new approaches to create social value.
  • Resourceful in mobilizing human, financial and political resources without any market or venture support.
  • Long-standing results oriented

We defined the social entrepreneurship, put boundaries upon it. Let’s now have a look at the definition again and find the difference between commercial and social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are free to choose a not-for-profit or a for-profit or hybrid form but it’s only the case of the business model and the specific social needs they address. In my humble opinion, there is only one main difference we can clearly see between entrepreneurship in the business sector and the social one. It lies in the relative priority given to social versus economic wealth creation.

So, Here Is The Challenge!

Let’s try to apply what we know about social entrepreneurship to the very acute case. Right now Europe faces the struggling moment of coping with the non-regulated immigrant influx. There are lots of fears that Muslim immigrants will not integrate into the European society, drain the public financial resources and steal jobs from local people. Although, it’s not the first time Europe deals with immigrants. The fears about them have always proved to be wrong in the long run. Hence, how can we engage the immigrants to bring value to Europe? A real case for us to think about and step into the shoes of a social entrepreneur. Looking forward to your ideas!



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