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PARSA University: What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship, sustainability, and innovation. These terms are commonly associated with a successful business executive or a young and energetic business team. They also embody an exciting movement sweeping the globe, one centered around identifying and resourcefully solving social problems on a large scale. A social entrepreneur recognizes society’s most pressing problems and adopts entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.  They are ambitious and persistent in tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.  Sustainability is of the utmost importance for a social entrepreneur, as they rely little on donations and develop diverse sources of funding in order to be viable in the long-term.

Social entrepreneurship as a term first became mainstream in the 1980s, promoted by trailblazers such as Bill Drayton, a member of PARSA’s advisory board and the founder of Ashoka, a leading nonprofit dedicated towards promoting sustainable and replicable solutions for the citizen sector. Since then, social entrepreneurs such as 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus have gone on to attract international headlines.

What exactly distinguishes a social entrepreneur from others devoted towards social change?

Social entrepreneurs apply inventive approaches to benefit society on a large scale, working in diverse areas including education, health, welfare reform, human rights, workers’ rights, environment, economic development and agriculture.  They pursue three fundamental goals:

  • Finding innovative solutions to social ills;
  • Addressing root causes of problems; and
  • Developing sustainable business models.

Social entrepreneurs highlight the synergies and benefits that result from applying business strategies to social ventures, strategies such as efficiency, durability, and scalability. Yet social entrepreneurs are by no means limited to the nonprofit sector – they also work with governments and the private sector. Regardless of their focus area, they believe in the innate capacity of all people to contribute to economic and social development and initiate change themselves, refusing to sit back and wait for it to happen on its own.

As Victor Hugo once wrote, “Nothing is as powerful as idea whose time has come.” In our fast-moving world today, nothing is as powerful as a new idea in the hands of a dedicated social entrepreneur.  Whether they are improving the quality of life in a desolate village or increasing access to higher education for inner-city youth, social entrepreneurs are solution-minded leaders unafraid to take on and resolve some of society’s most challenging problems. In the words of Bill Drayton, “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.”

... Payvand News - 9/4/07 ... --

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