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Social Entrepreneurship

The Big Picture

    The world faces some pretty daunting problems, and conventional approaches simply aren’t sufficient. We need new solutions that combine the best of the nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors to make large-scale, lasting change. Social entrepreneurs – and the organizations they launch – apply innovative, often risk-taking approaches to create scalable solutions.

    But you don’t have to launch a whole new venture to build a career in social entrepreneurship. You can join an existing social enterprise aligned with your interests and passions, or work in an organization dedicated to advancing the field as a whole. That's one of the great things about this field: it may be driven by innovation and new ideas, but there are myriad ways you can approach it, and a wide variety of issues worth tackling.

    • Approximately 925 million people worldwide go hungry every day.1
    • More than half of Americans live in regions with dangerous levels of air pollution.2
    • Globally, at least one in every three women is abused during her lifetime.3

    The Lowdown

    What can you expect if you decide to go into social entrepreneurship?

    Risk-Taking Ahead

    Being any kind of entrepreneur is inherently risky, but social entrepreneurs often go even further, tackling intractable problems in ways never before tried. You should be comfortable failing quickly and frequently (and bouncing back), being resourceful, and having an unpredictable career path. If you’re someone who likes routine, structure and security, you may want to look elsewhere.

    1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration

    Building anything from scratch is hard work, so be prepared to channel your inner Thomas Edison. True innovators must be flexible and open-minded. But more importantly, you'll need follow-through to succeed, and be ready to roll up your sleeves to tackle the long to-do lists that turn the spark of inspiration into a viable venture.

    Champions Needed

    Social entrepreneurs are driven by the issues they seek to address. As such, they're constant representatives of the causes they’re fighting for. You'll have to champion your organization relentlessly in your efforts to sway the skeptics and attract key partners. For social entrepreneurs who work with an issue that truly moves them – with an idea they truly believe in – this is what gets them out of bed. If not, it can be a challenging, thankless job.


    Next Still interested? Meet the Players...
    Got What It Takes?

    John Elkington, Chief Entrepreneur & Founder of SustainAbility discusses the common personality traits that make social entrepreneurs successful at what they do (and that sometimes pose challenges).

    How Did They Do It?

    Learn how these folks are making a difference in their field, and what it took to build their career in social entrepreneurship:

    Seth Goldman
    President & TeaEO | Honest Tea

    Sarah Endline
    Mastermind & Chief Rioter | sweetriot

    Not Your Thing?

    If social entrepreneurship doesn't seem right for you, take a look at these other fields instead:

    Nonprofit Management
    Corporate Impact
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