Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

What Exactly is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship harnesses the power and potential of business and enterprise to create both impact and profit. The term social entrepreneurship is often also used to describe the problem-solving mindset of addressing local and global problems with a business approach of identifying specific markets and leveraging business and financial models to achieve success. In that broader definition, a nonprofit or government agency could take a social entrepreneurship approach to problem-solving. Social entrepreneurship sits under the umbrella of social innovation and it’s a force to reckon with.

History of “Social Entrepreneurship” as a Term

There’s a bit of historical background on social entrepreneurship. In 1980, Bill Drayton, who had been a school teacher in New York before going to Harvard and law school at Yale, founded the organization Ashoka. In doing so, he challenged the idea of how we create impact. As a result of his influence, we now think about business models differently. Mr. Drayton is often recognized for popularizing the term “social entrepreneur” in the U.S. in the 1970s.  Ashoka is now the largest network of social entrepreneurs globally. 

These days, it seems like everybody wants to call themselves a social entrepreneur. Generally, though, it is used to refer to entities (for-profit or nonprofit) that are using business models to create impact.

Social Innovation v. Social Entrepreneurship?

Many seem to use terms like social innovation and social entrepreneurship synonymously, and while there is a great deal of overlap, the terms have a slightly different connotation. Social innovation focuses more on what is being implemented, like a new technology or new process, to create impact. Social entrepreneurship focuses more on how it is being implemented, like with a business approach or leveraging a unique business model to create, grow, and scale both impact and revenue.


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at 51questions.com

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