What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur?

The task of clearly defining the social entrepreneur is not an easy one. The Skoll Foundation defines a social entrepreneur as “society’s change agent: a pioneer of innovation that benefits humanity.”

In Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, Sally Osberg and Roger Martin define a social entrepreneur as:

“Someone who targets an equilibrium that causes the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity, who brings to bear on this situation his or her inspiration, direct action, creativity, courage, and fortitude, and who aims for and ultimately affects the establishment of a new equilibrium that secures permanent benefit for the targeted group and society at large.”

And here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

“A social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial strategies (typically found in the corporate world) to organize, create and manage a venture to make social change. A social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals. Social entrepreneurs are most commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors, but this need not preclude making a profit.”

Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector by:

  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value).
  • Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission.
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning.
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand.
  • Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

Source: The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship,” J. Gregory Dees, 2001

In other words, unlike a business entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur’s goal is to generate long-term social value as opposed to profit. Their focus is not only toward immediate, small-scale effects, but larger, more sustainable change.

Leadership FAQ

Comment using facebook, share your thoughts with us.

Leave a Reply