Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new field but is fast gaining popularity due to its inherent benefits and potentially positive effects on society. It gets wide media coverage, is discussed in colleges to instill social awareness in young minds, and is an appealing prospect for new as well as existing entrepreneurs. The drive to bring about transformational social change is the bedrock of social entrepreneurship. It is this promise and payoff that sets it apart from other enterprises. However, since it is highly inclusive its definition is vague at best right now.
Important features of Social Entrepreneurship
- Social entrepreneurs are different from entrepreneurs in the sense that profit-making may not be their basic purpose of establishment. However, it must be noted that they aren’t averse to it. Social benefit is the primary objective though.
- They’re driven by altruistic goals and motivated by their vision of catering to the disadvantaged and neglected population.
- Social entrepreneurs identify an opportunity in an unstable equilibrium which marginalises a certain target group due to financial or other reasons. They then try bringing about stability in their lives and the society at large through various means.
Types of Social Entrepreneurship
- Cooperatives – Cooperatives aim at providing social, economic, and cultural benefits to their members and are quite commonly known. E.g Community grocery stores, credit unions, etc
- Social firms – People who find it challenging to gain employment elsewhere due to factors like a physical handicap or special needs are given opportunities in social firms. E.g Magnanimous Mailing services gives work to the disadvantaged
- Socially responsible companies – These companies function and chart their daily operations by focussing on their social mission. E.g Thaely brand makes sustainable sneakers with recycled plastic
- For-profit businesses with social impact – Profit-making companies fulfill their social responsibilities by raising awareness and through donations. E.g. Tata, Wipro, Ambani, Birla
Starting a Social Entrepreneurship enterprise isn’t much different from a regular enterprise. What sets it apart is that social awareness lies at its locus.
- Identify a cause – This is crucial so your efforts can be aimed to benefit the target group. Providing clean drinking water, mental health awareness, food services for the needy, adult education, etc to name a few.
- Brainstorming and Strategising – Brainstorming involves creating funds to support your mission like selling a product, creating an app, etc. Additionally, strategising helps create an impact by selling products relevant to your cause. E.g. Selling paintings made by people with special needs, nutritional consultation for malnourished kids, water equipment for flooded areas, etc.
- Testing for sustainability – Social entrepreneurship must have sustainability. For this purpose, selling your products and testing with a small group through promotions and taking their feedback is helpful.
- Generate funding – Established businesses find it easier to find investors for their enterprise. However, new social entrepreneurs can try alternative methods like bootstrapping or crowdfunding.
- Take it to people! – Get the word out through every possible channel to boost your sales. Social media users, bloggers, influencers, content creators, social events, local newspapers, magazines, etc are amazing marketing ways to let people know about your enterprise. Use them exhaustively but wisely.
Benefits of Social Entrepreneurship
- Unifying factor – Passion for shared social causes can bring like-minded people together. It helps in staying focused and motivated.
- Widespread opportunities – Social enterprises can partner with government, private, or other non-profit organisations, charities, etc. which can help widen their reach.
- Positive brand image – An enterprise that is based on goodwill is bound to attract customers for the contribution it makes to a cause. This also means getting free promotions on all kinds of media leading to better impact and social awareness.
- Financial grants and support – Social enterprises can get grants, certifications, and investments to support their smooth functioning.
Social Entrepreneurs who made an impact!
Urvashi Sahni tops the list of social entrepreneurs in India and rightly so. SHEF (Study Hall Education Foundation) is an organisation that provides education to underprivileged Indian girls and she is its founder and CEO. Urvashi has worked with over 900 schools and changed the lives of thousands of girls. In 2017 she was felicitated as ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’.
Anshu Gupta’s Goonj addresses the issue of providing proper clothing to the rural population. Goonj collects used clothing from the urban crowd and distributes it to the needy after sorting and fixing it. They have provided relief work in states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala and gathered immense appreciation for it.
Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, Ajaita Shah strives to provide technological solutions to the rural population of India at affordable rates. The company has sold more than 10000 solar-powered products and aims at lighting up every corner of the country.
Social Entrepreneurship isn’t about generating profits but insists on bringing about societal change and creating social awareness about issues. It’s still in its nascent stage and provides umpteen opportunities to anyone willing to take the plunge. We may not all be social entrepreneurs but can definitely contribute to a cause, can’t we?
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