Social entrepreneurship is the work of a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurialship principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur assesses success in terms of the impact s/he has on society. While social entrepreneurs often work through nonprofits and citizen groups, many work in the private and governmental sectors.
The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship were first used in the literature on social change in the 1960s and 1970s . It came into widespread use in the 1980s and 1990s, promoted by Bill Drayton the founder of Ashoka, , and others such as Charles Leadbeater . From the 1950s to the 1990s Michael Young was a leading promoter of social enterprise and in the 1980s was described by Professor Daniel Bell at Harvard as 'the world's most successful entrepreneur of social enterprises' because of his role in creating over 60 new organizations worldwide, including a series of Schools for Social Entrepreneurs in the UK.
Although the terms are relatively new, social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship can be found throughout history. A list of a few historically noteworthy people whose work exemplifies classic "social entrepreneurship" might include Florence Nightingale, founder of the first nursing school and developer of modern nursing practices, Robert Owen founder of the cooperative movement and Vinoba Bhave (founder of India's Land Gift Movement). During the 19th and 20th centuries some of the most successful social entrepreneurs successfully straddled the civic, governmental and business worlds - promoting ideas that were taken up by mainstream public services in welfare, schools and healthcare.
One well known contemporary social entrepreneur is Muhammad Yunus, founder and manager of Grameen Bank and its growing family of social venture businesses, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The work of Yunus and Grameen echoes a theme among modern day social entrepreneurs that emphasizes the enormous synergies and benefits when business principles are unified with social ventures.  In some countries - including Bangladesh and to a lesser extent the USA - social entrepreneurs have filled the spaces left by a relatively small state. In other countries - particularly in Europe and South America - they have tended to work more closely with public organizations at both the national and local level.
The George Foundation's Women's Empowerment program empowers women by providing education, cooperative farming, vocational training, savings plan, and business development. In 2006 the cooperative farming program, Baldev Farms, was the second largest banana grower in South India with 250 acres under cultivation. Profits from the farm are used for improving the economic status of the workers and for running the other charitable activities of the foundation.
Some have created for profit organizations. A recent example is Vikram Akula founder CEO of SKS Microfinance, the McKinsey alumnus who started a microlending venture in villages of Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Though this venture is for profit, it has initiated a sharp social change amongst poor women from villages.
There are continuing arguments over precisely who counts as a social entrepreneur. Some have advocated restricting the term to founders of organizations that primarily rely on earned income – meaning income earned directly from paying consumers. Others have extended this to include contracted work for public authorities, while others still include grants and donations. This argument is unlikely to be resolved soon. Peter Drucker, for example, once wrote that there was nothing as entrepreneurial as creating a new university: yet in most developed countries the majority of university funding comes from the state.
Today, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, foundations, governments and individuals promote, fund, and advise social entrepreneurs around the planet. A growing number of colleges and universities are establishing programs focused on educating and training social entrepreneurs.
Organizations such as Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the Skoll Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, New Profit Inc. and Echoing Green among others, focus on highlighting these hidden change-makers who are scattered across the globe. Ashoka's Changemakers "open sourcing social solutions" initiative Changemakers uses an online platform for what it calls collaborative competitions to build communities of practice around pressing issues. The North American organizations tend to have a strongly individualistic stance focused on a handful of exceptional leaders, while others in Asia and Europe emphasize more how social entrepreneurs work within teams, networks and movements for change.
Youth social entrepreneurship is an increasingly common approach to engaging youth voice in solving social problems. Youth organizations and programs promote these efforts through a variety of incentives to young people.
Fast Company Magazine annually publishes a list of the 25 best social entrepreneurs, which the magazine defines as organizations "using the disciplines of the corporate world to tackle daunting social problems."
The International Business Leaders Forum, an NGO that promotes responsible business practices, has shown how multinational companies can support social entrepreneurship - either through in their businesses, engaging in public policy debate or creating better internal climates within their organisations. (Credit: Wikipedia)
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