Conceptualising Social Entrepreneurship

Kushal Pokharel

The term Social entrepreneurship (SE) has become a buzzword in the academia as well as business sector. While there is no unanimous definition of this term, the underlying notion of SE encourages thinking beyond individual needs and ensuring larger social welfare. In other words, it involves the creative energy that an individual puts to solve important social issues with passion and purpose. With social change and transformation at its core, SE accords top priority to resolve the growing problem of social injustice and inequality. Coined by Gregory Dees, SE aims at creating and supporting social value. Furthermore, identification and use of new opportunities for implementing the chosen mission, implementation of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning, among others, are significant characteristics of this concept.

Growing interests of the young population to make a positive impact for stepping out of their comfort zone has made SE a new business model of the present century. SEs are primarily for-profit businesses with self-funding though partnership with government or other philanthropic entities is also forged to achieve the intended goals. More importantly, the focus of the SEs have included global development issues like eradicating poverty and hunger, combating poverty, fighting climate change among others. For instance, redefining the business from the point of view of selflessness, Yunus Social Business has become one of the most popular philanthropic venture funds creating positive impact in the lives of around 3 million customers. With an objective of uniting students and disadvantaged people to develop and execute entrepreneurial projects, Compreneurship, another famous venture has been championing the cause of social justice. One of the recent success stories of this enterprise involve the collaboration among students studying design, journalism, and business with local homeless people to create and distribute an original newspaper. This has ultimately helped the impoverished street vendors earn a whopping 150,000 euros by distributing papers.
Ranging from the locally run initiatives by different groups in a community to solve social, economic and environmental problems to profit making missions to create social and economic value fall under its ambit. In addition, non-profit organisations that generate public benefit that helps in inducing social change and cooperatives that provide services and goods to its members who pay a certain membership fee are also accommodated in the social enterprise.
Studies have shown social entrepreneurs feel motivated and happy to help others discover their life purpose in addition to their own. Whether we refer to the case of Tom Shoes, Grameen Bank or similar globally successful SEs, an inherent satisfaction among the entrepreneurs have sustained these initiatives thereby expanding the impact.
Emerging out of the response to the social problems of poverty, unemployment, environment pollution, caste and gender based discrimination, social injustice among others in the 20th century, SE accords top priority to unique approaches to increase social impact that requires ‘out of the box’ thinking. Analysing market failures and finding opportunities to develop new solutions that provide long-term positive impact on society lie at its heart. In addition, audacity to penetrate into the social and cultural injustices including other forms of discrimination and exploitations to uproot the evils distinguishes social entrepreneurs from business entrepreneurs.
While the business entrepreneurs are concerned primarily with making profits and are accountable to shareholders and other investors, Social Entrepreneurs are interested in using such profit to effect social change. With the critical analysis of the existing social, political and economic contexts, SEs set bigger goals of social transformation. In addition, fighting against social inequality and injustice despite odds to establish an egalitarian society lie at the heart of any social enterprise. Contrary to this, the traditional mode of commercial entrepreneurship pursues all activities only to expand their profit.
Dees, a prominent theorist explains some peculiar characteristics of social entrepreneurs that separate them from commercial ones: adopting a social mission; relentlessly pursuing opportunities to further that mission; continuously innovating, adapting, and learning; acting boldly without constraints of limited resources; and consciously being accountable to this target audience of the mission.

Various SEs have emerged in Nepal also realising the increasing prominence. Enterprises like the Bihani Social Ventures that renders services and support to individuals above fifty to lead a meaningful life by addressing the issues of isolation have become popular. Meanwhile, the hype of Kathmandu Coffee is also an interesting case, a unique social enterprise that focuses on producing best quality coffee by the optimum utilisation of local resources. This in turn generates local employment opportunities to the people in the surrounding area. Major activities to encourage local community for organic coffee plantation involve free saplings distribution, counselling on coffee plantation, preparation of organic compost, prevention of coffee disease, need of shade trees, documentation and all other pertinent information.
Addressing a range of social problems require a pragmatic spirit of SE. Reducing social inequalities and vulnerabilities and moving the society in the direction of an egalitarian state also becomes possible if the SEs function effectively.


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