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SocialEntrepreneur is not a misprint. When you see the two words joined together, what is your reaction? Do they look like they don’t go together? I see them as a matched pair and socialentreprenurship is what all entrepreneurship has to be about.

“If your company doesn’t care, it will not be in business for long.”

 This a quote from Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia.

One definition of social entrepreneurship is that it means identifying or recognizing a social problem and using entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a social venture to achieve a desired social change. The trouble with it is that there are many other definitions, too. You can try this colloquial one on for size: the job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. “Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems.” Those are the words of David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. There are gazillions more ways of describing the phenomenon.

Here’s what Ashoka (a global organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs) says, “Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.” Ashoka says also that, “Rather than leaving societal needs for the government or business sectors to address, social entrepreneurs are creating innovative solutions, delivering extraordinary results, and improving the lives of millions of people.”

Now here’s the thing: politicians want to deal with these things, also, but whatever their color, they have dogma and agendas. Social entrepreneurs, in my view do, too. Many business leaders and entrepreneurs might on the other hand, be described as ‘agnostic’: they just want to use an organization to get something done.

However, in the last decade much has changed in the temperature of the business water as well as in the climate. The ‘invisible hand’ is less trusted, Adam Smith does not reign supreme. And even arch advocates of competition in the business strategy field, like Michael Porter have revised their views in the light of how things are now. You should take a look at his October 2013 TED talk on Why business can be good at solving social problems. It will only take 15 minutes or so of your time.


Critics brand it a just another manifestation of greed, but I think it exemplifies where the vast majority of awake business leaders are today.

What you might think of as social entrepreneurship today, is so mainstream that all enterprise is social. A student of the field should be looking at leader like Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, who is bold and care driven. See the Sustainable Living concept that is the company’s guiding policy. Or take a look at Nestlé and its Creating Shared Value strategy. These are not campaigns or CSR. Both lie at the core of what their businesses are about. Of course, both firms have old traditions withering; they are not perfect citizens, but their heart is social and concerned with all stakeholders. Soon after his appointment, Polman stopped Unilever issuing quarterly results, flying in the face of conventional Wall Street wisdom, convinced that they could only be misleading.

Unilever and Nestlé are social enterprises that are also multinational listed companies, too.

PLEASE NOTE: There is tons of useful stuff on Startup Owl, a site that’s been going for a dozen years. So keep browsing, but know that the founder, Will, now devotes most of his time and energy to his new website that you should definitely visit:

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