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What is Social Entrepreneurship?


Social Entrepreneurship – Social responsibility is increasingly important in today’s professional world, with many companies integrating it into their advertising campaigns and business practices. While much of this could be seen as a branding choice designed to maximize corporate image, there are many individuals and organizations with a genuine passion to positively impact the world around them.

For these people or companies, social entrepreneurship is often the vehicle of choice to achieve this aim. But even with all this talk of social entrepreneurship, many people are left wondering—what exactly is it?

Social entrepreneurship vs entrepreneurship

Before we dive deeper, we first need to address social entrepreneurship’s traditional counterpart: entrepreneurship. In many ways, an entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur are very similar. Both work hard to realize their vision, pouring time, effort and considerable risk into their venture. Both look to achieve their aims through original, out-of-the-box thinking. And both always try to measure the success of their undertaking.

So, what’s the difference?

It all comes down to their value proposition. For the traditional entrepreneur, while they can often provide social benefits, their primary objective is to make money for themselves or their shareholders in a market with a lot of potential rewards. For social entrepreneurs, their primary aim is to stimulate positive change by successfully developing a marketable product or service, or by giving others similar skills.

What does social entrepreneurship look like?

Social entrepreneurship can take many forms. It can often exist as a normal non-profit initiative where the whole purpose is to provide a service to society, and any personal profit is reinvested into the project itself. But it’s not so black and white.

There are many for-profit initiatives that can blend social entrepreneurship into their business model. Imagine, for example, a restaurant which only hired homeless people. The purpose would still be to earn a profit but, by providing employment to those who would otherwise struggle, there’s also a societal benefit.


Some more examples of social entrepreneurship

Microfinancing programs

Microfinancing programs are a great example of social entrepreneurship. The general idea is to make a wider variety of financial services available on a small scale to areas where people don’t have access, often because of poverty. There are many initiatives where people travel to different parts of the globe to take part in microfinancing projects. One example of this is the Ghana microfinance project, which students from IE Business School often take part in.

Youth initiatives

Many budding entrepreneurs gain invaluable experience taking part in different social initiatives where they get to better the lives of others. There are a number of different organizations young people can get involved with, but a good example is ICS. Here, 18-25-year-olds go on placements to help small businesses get started, sharing and receiving knowledge as they do.


NGO or non-governmental organization is an umbrella term for any non-profit organization whose main aim is to provide a social benefit, whether that’s related to humanitarian, medical or educational work. NGOs aren’t necessarily organizations for social entrepreneurship, but recent trends mean they are increasingly using these techniques to maximize results.


What kind of impact can it have?

When done right, social entrepreneurship can have a huge and lasting impact on the areas where they operate. In this short video, John Doerr from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers tells the story of a social entrepreneurship project in Bangladesh, India. Doerr describes how, simply by giving people access to capital, they were able to empower 37 million individuals to lift themselves out of poverty.

Social entrepreneurship has incredible potential as a force for change around the world, and that’s why more and more people are choosing to use their skills in that area. It is hugely satisfying for anyone who gets involved and can leave a lasting impact on disadvantaged communities, changing people’s lives and helping them to carve out a future for themselves.