Over the past decade, social enterprise has become big business. In the UK alone, the sector contributes £60bn to the economy, representing 3 percent of GDP and 5 percent of all employment.
Also sometimes referred to as “impact business” or “purpose-driven business”, social entrepreneurship is a source of meaningful impact for the world, which links work with a social, environmental, or cultural purpose beyond purely financial. Social enterprises are dedicated to addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues — while still succeeding as thriving businesses. Leveraging cutting-edge technology and innovation, social entrepreneurs are eager to make a difference that will both better our lives and the environment.
The core concept at the root of social enterprise is that making money need not come at the cost of trashing our environment or weakening the social fabric of our societies. While the legal and organizational structures of social enterprise comes in many forms, from non-profits to B-corporations, the goal is unified: to fulfill a desire to work for change and align businesses’ efforts with their values.
Contrary to traditional commerce, social entrepreneurship seeks to build relationships beyond those purely grounded in economic purposes. Collaboration is common amongst social entrepreneurs, with the recognition that we are often stronger and create more value when we work together. In addition to helping those in need through business, communities of social entrepreneurs also tend to facilitate emotional support between business owners, who appreciate that the road of entrepreneurship is often a long and lonely one. Furthermore, sharing information and resources through community networks can be of immense benefit to similar social groups from around the world. This is evident in international humanitarian initiatives that have proved that social entrepreneurship can also help create networking opportunities between countries.
Social entrepreneurship aims to create both economic and social value. Unlike traditional businesses, this ever-growing sector often takes advantage of new market opportunities to address social and environmental challenges. A factor that helps with that, is that unlike the charity model, social entrepreneurs enjoy independence from the limited resources and cumbersome reporting requirements that accompany funding from official institutions. This makes it much easier to meet the needs of society in a quick and efficient fashion. In addition, social entrepreneurship excels in flexibility and offering alternative solutions to address urgent needs, in a way the government fails to do.
So how is social entrepreneurship changing the world? The answers to that question are as numerous as grains of sand on the beach. Every social impact enterprise seeks to solve a different problem, offers a different product or service, and supports a different community affected by an array of issues. The social benefit is maximized with monetary profit that can then be reinvested into scaling the impact of the business. Within this cycle, money becomes a tool for finding solutions for pressing local and global social issues in the areas of healthcare, child labor, and homelessness. This is certainly the beauty of social entrepreneurship and its impact on the world; that enterprises work for the greater benefit of the world, while seeking to scale up and maintain financial security.
Whether a large-scale impact like Habitat for Humanity helping 3.5 million people around the world, or smaller, localized impacts such as those achieved by local nonprofits that operate much like a business but reinvest all profits, social entrepreneurship changes lives for the better. It rejects the idea that doing good cannot be turned into a successful business, and even better, it creates a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the world.