Why Social Entrepreneurship Matters
Having a career in today’s world means more than just having a job where you work all day for a paycheck. For many of today’s employees — especially millennials and Gen Z — they want their careers to be more than just about making money. They want purpose, meaning, and the opportunity to truly make a difference.
Enter social entrepreneurship, an approach that makes changing the world its business model. For these enlightened innovators, being in business means that they take their passion for solving problems and turn it into goods and services that not only make a profit but also a difference.
What is social entrepreneurship?
This term arose in the 1980s and 90s, but there isn’t a solid definition for it. In general, it refers to a person who tries to create value or impact society in a positive way by offering a service or a product that meets needs that have previously gone unanswered or by presenting new solutions to challenges brought on by society.
Social entrepreneurs generally seek to support people who are marginalized or who find themselves in unfair situations due to circumstances beyond their control. What sets a social entrepreneur apart from a traditional entrepreneur is that while the traditional’s ultimate goal is to create wealth, the social entrepreneur seeks to create lasting societal change.
A key characteristic of social entrepreneurship is it will often involve the people it is trying to help or support. For example, the Italian restaurant CHIKÙ invites members of a distressed community to contribute to the menu with their own recipes, thereby contributing to the solution.
Why is social entrepreneurship important?
Social entrepreneurship allows entrepreneurs to live their lives with purpose and connect with other people on a fundamental level. It also gives them the opportunity to provide long-lasting happiness and inspiration for others. Here are a few factors that define social entrepreneurship:
There’s an aphorism that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life — for the social entrepreneur, their career is their purpose in life, and those business owners feel that they truly make a difference in the world. A purpose-driven company provides mindful and meaningful work that turns every day into an adventure in making the world more sustainable and socially responsible.
Social entrepreneurship also puts the motivation for work at the forefront. A company that makes a positive change in society gives its employees motivation for going to work in the morning that goes beyond bringing home a paycheck — the employees know that their work creates a real force of change that positively impacts other people or the environment.
More than a paycheck
While recent studies have shown that money can, indeed, bring much happiness to those who have it, money alone leaves many people feeling unfulfilled. But social entrepreneurs find that the fulfillment from their work goes beyond the money they make, and the knowledge that their work impacts others brings them a happiness that mere wealth cannot.
Inspiration for others
Social entrepreneurs provide inspiration for other people who may be searching for purpose and meaning in the work they do. Products and services that make a social change help the people who use those products and services not only better their lives but also discover meaning within them.
At the end of the day, if customers don’t believe in a product or support the mission behind it, they won’t buy it. After all, today’s consumers have shown time and again that they prefer to purchase goods and services from companies whose values align with their own. Social entrepreneurs realize this and make sure their customers understand how their product aligns with their vision for a better world.
Why is social entrepreneurship critical at this time?
Right now, we are at a crucial juncture in the social entrepreneurial world. As social media brings social issues closer to the forefront of our consciousness, consumers and investors care more than they used to about the purpose behind a company’s product and the need for that product to have a positive impact. More than ever before, a company’s mission and vision are essential for success. Here are some more reasons why it is an important moment to be a social entrepreneur:
Walk the walk on making the world better
While “making the world a better place” sounds almost trite because the phrase is used so often by startups in Silicon Valley, millennials and Gen Z actually do care about being socially responsible and sustainable. But while the Silicon Valley billionaire often talks the talk and maybe supports causes financially, social entrepreneurs go a step further and actually make their desire to improve the world the purpose of their business (rather than a nice side effect).
Create a better working environment
Social entrepreneurship also lends itself naturally to providing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. If a company is devoted to good causes, the company’s culture will reflect its willingness to hear new voices and form equitable working relationships, something that up-and-coming employees are seeking in today’s job market.
Investors have been reevaluating their approaches to funding, paying more attention to a company’s mission and vision and looking at their contribution to the world in addition to their contribution to their shareholders.
How can someone get involved?
If you want to be a social entrepreneur, organizations like the World Economic Forum and the US Chamber of Commercehave some great guidelines. There are also several universities that are starting to offer courses in social entrepreneurship. But the most important thing is to find out what motivates you to make a difference and see if there is a spark that you can grow into a larger flame.
To read our complete guide on social entrepreneurship, visit Netimpact.org.