If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably heard the phrase about social entrepreneurs. In brief, the term refers to people who apply techniques commonly associated with entrepreneurship to large-scale social causes, such as protecting the environment or eradicating poverty. Here’s a more in-depth look at social entrepreneurship and why it’s becoming so popular.

What does social entrepreneurship entail?
Whereas regular entrepreneurs use their skills, capital and notoriety to generate profit, social entrepreneurs use innovative ideas and practices to effect positive change globally. As an example, a conventional social activist would solicit financial donations in order to fund an organization that works to feed and clothe the homeless. While well-intentioned, the activist in this scenario is only addressing the effects of the problem, not the problem itself. A social entrepreneur is someone who would design a social network that would allow users to lend money directly to impoverished entrepreneurs all over the world so that they would have the resources to generate profit on an ongoing basis. Effectively, social entrepreneurs put the “give a man a fish” proverb in action on a global scale.

Who are some notable social entrepreneurs?
The social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka lists influential historical figures, including Educator Dr. Maria Montessori, Conservationist John Muir and Activist Vinoba Bhave. More contemporary examples of social entrepreneurs would include Consultant Taddy Blecher, Actor Matt Damon and Kiva Founder Matt Flannery. Those social entrepreneurs gained notoriety, well except Jason Bourne, because they used technology to innovatively address education availability, access to clean water and global poverty in the same way the founders of Uber and Netflix take advantage of areas of opportunity in the transportation and media industries.

What does the rise of social entrepreneurship mean to small business owners?
As this Entrepreneur piece explains, social entrepreneurs are attracting a lot of attention in the worlds of business and social justice because they are successfully addressing seemingly insurmountable problems using unconventional means. Some social entrepreneurs have also done very well for themselves by creating successful benefit corporations and charities. Toms Shoes founder and chief shoe giver, Blake Mycoskie, sold half of his company to Bain Capital for an estimated $300 millionCharity:water founder and CEO, Scott Harrison, was paid nearly $200,000 in 2012 for his good works. Ad-free social network Ello raised $5.5 million in venture capital after the company reorganized into a benefit corporation. Who says saving the world isn’t profitable?

This article was written by Mario McKellop for Small Business Pulse


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