How Social Entrepreneurship Is Driving Regenerative Innovation
Social entrepreneurship is a means for an individual or entity to develop and fund solutions that address social issues directly. In other words, a social entrepreneur looks for opportunities that may positively impact the community, society, or world. The many paths to social entrepreneurship can include working in non-profits, cooperatives, socially responsible businesses, and even for-profit entities.
Dr. Joe Johnson, the founder of Welfont, describes four basic types of social entrepreneurs:
- The Community Social Entrepreneur works within a smaller geographic community.
- The Non-Profit Social Entrepreneur makes social well-being more important than profit.
- The Transformational Social Entrepreneur seeks to change the social order by meeting needs not met by the government or society.
- The Global Social Entrepreneur attempts to solve unmet global needs.
The energy and vision that social entrepreneurs bring to society's table are essential for the lasting changes that many seek. For example, these innovators contribute to society by:
- Focusing on a problem: They highlight real problems that impact a given group, neighborhood, or country.
- Creating economic value and opportunity: They produce jobs, income, and networks of business partners working for the economic welfare of an entire region.
- Catalyzing change: The businesses they create in areas like micro-lending and sustainable energy can have ripple effects affecting millions.
- Generating social value: They work to improve society in general.
- Inspiring governments and people: They encourage all of society to join their campaigns to change their communities.
- Saving lives: They make or help others to make, changes that keep millions alive.
Ultimately, social entrepreneurs serve as role models to their cultures and, most importantly, to young people. They inspire youth to make positive social change in their societies. They promote work on issues as diverse as poverty, job opportunities, gender issues, education, and health. In addition, social entrepreneurs play a practical role in bringing about change by encouraging the young to become involved in social and governmental work.
Calvin Coolidge, later President of the United States, notoriously said in 1916, "the business of America is business." In contrast, social entrepreneurship redefines the "business of business." As a result, today businesses worldwide are rethinking what their business's business should be. No longer focused solely on profits, companies recognize their responsibility to create a regenerative economy and to give back to society. By looking closely at the needs of your community, you too can find innovative ways to meet previously unrecognized and unmet needs.
Regeneration seeks to build a circular economy that re-uses and re-purposes, replacing the linear “extract, use, discard” model that has long guided businesses. Social entrepreneurs have embraced this idea in numerous ways. For instance, look at the rebuilding of decaying urban centers, which brings life, jobs, and culture back to neighborhoods occupied by those whose needs have long been forgotten and neglected.
Becoming a social entrepreneur takes more than just dreaming about changing the world. Implementing a regenerative economy will take hard work and creativity. Here are some practical steps you can take:
- State your mission: Do your research, decide what you want to do, and write it down. If you can't state your goals, you can't get others to join you in reaching them.
- Conceptualize: Determine what's already being done. Then, how will your unique idea fit into and change that world?
- Communicate: Find like-minded team members who will give you support, ideas, and feedback.
- Create a business model and fund it: Figure out what kind of business fits your goal, and then find ways to pay for it. Idealism is great, but you can't run a business without supplies, space, and payroll.
- Make an action plan: How will you turn your mission into action? Develop a plan for completing your mission. Plan for a specific period — say the first year — and stick to it.
- Monitor your progress: Record for yourself or your funders how well you follow your plan and hit your outlined goals.
Net Impact invites you to learn how you and others can transform basic economic ideas. For example, you can take courses and do projects in the circular economy. You can explore regenerative models and discard the old destructive linear extractive model. You can study how change works. Then, use what you’ve learned to implement your own changes. With hundreds of chapters worldwide, Net Impact offers you a first step on the path to social entrepreneurship.
Net Impact also offers a consolidated job market for those seeking careers in social impact and the regenerative economy. So, if you're not ready to build your own business, check out the Net Impact job board to learn more about different career paths and opportunities. Remember, an impactful job can give you skills and contacts that will be invaluable when you start your own business.