Social entrepreneurship has no single definition because it can mean a lot of different things. People associate social entrepreneurship with philanthropy, environmentalism and even socially oriented business. It is very different from corporate social responsibility (CSR), so don’t get yourself confused.
The main difference between the two is the mission statement of the establishment. Social entrepreneurs run their enterprise with a mission to solve social problems in mind while CSR is a sub unit of a business that engages in socially responsible activities or processes; it is not the main purpose of the business. Some people think that all social enterprises have to be a non-profit firm to ensure that those firms don’t have any hidden agendas, but that’s not true. As long as the firm stays true to its mission statement to help alleviate social issues, there’s no reason it can’t be a for-profit institution.
Consider D.light Design, which is a company that delivers affordable solar-powered solutions. They design their solutions for the two billion people in the developing world without access to reliable energy – mainly for rural and semi-urban households in India, Africa, and South America. Its mission is to provide solar energy solutions for households and small businesses and transform the way people all over the world use and pay for energy. Although it is a for profit business, it still upholds its mission to provide affordable access to lighting solutions in the developing world.
Another social enterprise that has a made a positive impact in the world is ALISON. ALISON is an e-learning provider and academy founded in Galway, Ireland that is filled with free, high-quality online education resources to provide free certified education and workplace training skills to any individual, anywhere, anytime, on any subject over the web. What makes it different than most e-learning platform is that the majority of its learners are located in the developing world with the fastest growing number of users from India.
There are many other incredible social enterprise out there making an impact to the world with an increasing number of entrepreneurs who engage in social entrepreneurship. There are many problems that can’t be fixed if we rely solely on the government, making these entrepreneurs essential. This can in part be attributed to the involvement of higher education institutions in supporting social entrepreneurship. On a global scale, 35 schools in the world developed teaching programs in social entrepreneurship, which is an increase by 75% from 2004 to 2008.
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Written By: Farhan Lokman, 4th year, Business Administration and Economics