Skip to main content

How Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Can Help Mobilize Social Movements

How Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Can Help Mobilize Social Movements

Climate Movement

“There is nothing more powerful than a new idea in the hands of a social entrepreneur.” —Bill Drayton.

The concept of a regenerative economy centers on the belief that people, through global collaboration, must come together to change the current economic system with regenerative principles. It deals directly with the existing issues of racial injustice and inequity, climate change, and social and economic inequality.

All of these are direct results of our current economic policies. So how can aspiring social entrepreneurs and businesses become more involved with their local communities and make a difference for all?

History of social entrepreneurs supporting social movements

Bill Drayton is often considered the father of social entrepreneurship. In 1980 he founded Ashoka, a company committed to identifying and supporting the world’s leading social entrepreneurs to bring about an “everyone a changemaker” world. He has held true to his core principles that a person, driven by innovative ideas, can bring permanent change to social and economic inequities. 

However, some suggest social entrepreneurism has existed for hundreds of years. Though it's a relatively new term, social entrepreneurship can be traced back to the 19th century.

  • Vinoba Bhave founded India’s Land Gift Movement in 1895, persuading wealthy landowners to give land to those who owned none.
  • Robert Owen established the cooperative movement in 1771-1859, focusing on higher wages for shorter hours and other nontraditional business practices.
  • Florence Nightingale founded the first nursing school in 1894 and was the developer of modern nursing practices.

Some have traced the roots of social entrepreneurship as far back as 1400.

  • The ruler of the Mali Empire in the 1400s, Mansa Musa, is considered the wealthiest man to have ever lived. He invested in his communities by building schools and universities. He also donated his riches to the poor in areas he visited.
  • In the 1500s, Spanish scholar Juan Luis Vives wrote that leaders were responsible for assisting the poor to maintain social order.
  • In 1602, the Dutch East India Company became the first publicly traded company in the world. It sparked the spread of capitalism and economic growth.

Top issues that social entrepreneurs are supporting

The causes and issues supported by social entrepreneurs and their companies are vast. But they all have one common thread — improve the quality of life for people and the planet. Below are just a few examples of what these innovators of change are doing.

  • Books to Prisoners works to provide books to incarcerated individuals in hopes that knowledge and self-empowerment will break the cycle of repeat offenses.
  • Belu considers itself a drink company and changes the way the world looks at water.
    • It invests all of its profits into saving carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.
    • It gives consumers the choice of creating a better world.
  • Toms is credited with putting social entrepreneurism at the forefront of making a difference. When you purchase a pair of TOMS shoes or sunglasses, the company provides shoes, water, safe birth, sight, and bullying prevention support to people worldwide.
  • Ben & Jerry’s is committed to
    • Driving racial equity through its business practices.
    • As the company prospers, so do its key stakeholders.
    • The company is committed to human rights and dignity, social and economic justice, and protecting the environment.

Innovations that are helping to mobilize movements

Social impact and innovation have become synonymous with making a difference around the globe. They include the following focuses for activism.


  • Regulations that ensure women are represented on boards.
    • By 2023, California will require all publicly traded companies to have at least one female board member.
  • Equal paid paternity and maternity leave to address the gender wage gap.
    • In Iceland and Finland, it is required by law that both men and women receive the same benefits.


  • 3D-printed homes and communities
    • Complete earthquake-proof homes have been built in Mexico.
  • Government-owned food forests.
    • The city of Atlanta has purchased seven acres of land where residents can pick and grow their own food.



Net Impact’s regenerative economy approach

Net Impact's approach to the economic issues of our time provides the tools and resources necessary to bring about common synergy and collaboration. It aims to reform the status quo of business practices in order to address current injustices to people, animals, and the planet. To learn more, visit the website or reach out to Net Impact's development team.