Social Entrepreneurship – Now is the Time

Social entrepreneurship is a major area of interest in many social and civic organizations and has a significant impact on many areas of society. During the past decade economic resources have become more difficult to acquire and society has continued to exhibit economic and cultural decline. Concurrently, communities are in need of initiatives that will enhance their financial viability and programs that will enhance the overall viability of the population.

Social entrepreneurship initiatives are ventures that can serve as a method of increasing the social value of a community, organization or cause while enhancing the financial viability of a not-for-profit organization. With this being stated, social entrepreneurship has been defined in different ways by many different theorists. Gary McPherson, Executive Administrator of the Canada Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, states that social entrepreneurship involves various individuals working toward meeting social and economic goals simultaneously; while Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka, defines social entrepreneurship as a term coined to describe “individuals who combine the pragmatic and results oriented methods of a business entrepreneur with the goals of social reform.”

A more basic definition of social entrepreneurship states that it is “the process of using entrepreneurial and business skills to create innovative approaches to social problems.” Therefore, it is a methodology that is presently being used to resolve community and societal concerns globally. Social entrepreneurship as an area of specialized entrepreneurship is not defined by the same titling in every culture. For example, in Latin America countries social entrepreneurship initiatives are referred to as “Micro Enterprise.” In India the same program would be identified as a “Social Mission.” Though termed differently in various regions, social entrepreneurship initiatives are being implemented to solve specific societal and community concerns by focusing on the needs and resource availability within specific geographic regions.

Social Entrepreneurship in Education Throughout the United States, many top tertiary level academic institutions are enhancing their business programs by including a curriculum that caters to the study of social entrepreneurship. In 2003, the Center for Responsible Business was launched on the University of California Berkley Campus. This subsidiary of the Haas School of Business was implemented with the intent of training students to be more principled and socially responsible members of society through attending “the preeminent educational institution in area of Corporate Social Responsibility.” Stanford University also has established a Center for Social Innovation as a part of its graduate school of business. This center was founded with the mission to “build and strengthen the capacity of individuals and organizations to develop innovative solutions to social problems for a more just, sustainable and healthy world.”

In 1993, Harvard Business School started its social enterprise program with its mission of “generating and sharing knowledge to help individuals and organizations to create social value in the not-for-profit, private and public sectors,” and the University of Miami has refocused its business school curriculum to include coursework in the areas of ethical-decision making, social entrepreneurship and community engagement with the primary focus being to expose students to various areas of civic engagement while concurrently teaching them leadership and team building skills.

Tertiary level institutions, including Duke, which has established a Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship as part of its Fuqua School of Business, and Columbia University where the research initiative on social entrepreneurship is embedded in its school of business, have also made strides to enhance the study and education of those seeking to venture into areas of social entrepreneurship and social venture implementation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB – International) has identified over twenty-four tertiary level institutions that have included social entrepreneurship as a part of their business college and or business curriculums.

With social entrepreneurship being perceived by many as a new way of stimulating social change, Idee Winfield believes that the implementation of community-focused service learning projects is the first step in exposing youth to the various attributes associated with social entrepreneurship. Through community involvement, youth will begin to visualize and experience the various social issues within their community and envision ways to solve these problems. Winfield states that social entrepreneurship should be promoted in primary and secondary education, and coursework should be adjusted to allow students to “see how abstract socially focused concepts can have real world applicability.” Jeffrey Soderborg, a member of the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Clearinghouse on Entrepreneurship Education, is also an ardent proponent of social venture education who believes that social entrepreneurship would be more readily accepted if youth were exposed to information expounding the laurels of these initiatives during their primary and secondary academic years.

As youth expand their horizons through the establishment of entrepreneurial efforts, knowledge and exposure to information about the process involved in the establishment of entrepreneurial business effectively plays a major role in the rate at which business entities are established. A study focusing on entrepreneurial interests among black youth ages 14 to 19 identified that 75% of the youth surveyed had interest in becoming entrepreneur. The study also found that these minority youth believed that more information about entrepreneurship should be presented through their schools. They also believed that entrepreneurs have a responsibility to reinvest in their community.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Personal values often serve as the justification for entrepreneurs to focus organizational efforts on socially focused ventures. The organizational decision to forgo pursuing financial gain with the intent of using the corporations’ profit resources to enhance a community is often referred to corporate social entrepreneurship. Corporate Social Entrepreneur (CSE) is a term used to describe corporate initiatives whose primary focus is to enhance a social concern and whose secondary focus is financial gain. The corporate social entrepreneur differs from the financial profit seeking entrepreneur in the area of decisions made that affect the community and environment in which their organization functions. Research identified that in corporate social entrepreneurship business acumen serves as a factor in the success or failure of social venture initiative implementation. Research identifies that success factors associated with the implementation of social responsibility initiatives were linked to whether the entrepreneur exhibits behavior that is moral, amoral or immoral.

The amoral entrepreneur would pursue initiatives only if they were deemed acceptable by the organization as a whole. The immoral entrepreneur implements initiatives based on what can be potentially gained for self as well as for the stakeholders, while the moral entrepreneur would pursue social responsibility initiatives based on what was in the best interest of the organization. Individuals identified as corporate social entrepreneurs are individuals who are more active in community activities and are actively involved in social responsibility efforts. Corporate social entrepreneurs also are more likely to implement social responsibility initiatives based on an organization’s long term objectives.

While many corporations are looking for ways to increase their social responsibility efforts, in some regions corporate responsibility efforts are not progressing. A policy paper, “Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America and the Caribbean,” documented that corporate social responsibility activity in this region has “stalled.” The reason for stagnation in this region is “minimal government involvement” and the lack of “private sector involvement.” It was also identified that initiatives to implement programs focusing on social responsibility are often initiated outside of the market, and then subsequently not embraced by stakeholders who reside within this geographic region.

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