What is a Social Entrepreneur?

The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship were used first in the literature to social change in the 1960s and 1970s. The terms became more popular in the 1980s and 1990s, promoted by Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, and others such as Charles Leadbeater.

What is a social entrepreneur?

Before the term gained traction, those who fit this description were outsiders or radicals that seemed to bring positive change to deprived communities single-handedly. Characterized as extremely optimistic visionaries who had infinite willpower, they use entrepreneurial skills and innovation to address significant social and/or environmental problems. Profit did not motivate this free-thinking and inspirational group. Years ago they didn’t have a name but today we call them, Social Entrepreneurs.

Similar to the way business entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss to improve systems, invent new approaches, and create solutions to change the world around us for the better. 

We support all efforts to use business as a tool for positive impact. Some groups, such as the Skoll Foundation, define social entrepreneurship more specifically as changing the equilibrium of an established system.

We use the term “Change Creator” and define it as: A person who uses entrepreneurial skills and innovation to improve the wellbeing of people, animals, and/or the environment. They use business and organizations as a tool for change and have a vision to benefit the planet as a whole. 

A social entrepreneur or “Change Creator”, can operate a nonprofit organization or a for-profit business. Each can serve a purpose for the greater good making real change in the world.

Business with a Purpose.

We call this, business with purpose.

There are many amazing people around the world doing great things as social entrepreneurs.  

Here are a few well-known social entrepreneurs.

  1. Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad started Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. Yunus was teaching economics when a terrible famine hit the region, leaving people starving to death in the streets. His solution was to provide collateral-free micro-loans to the very poorest people in the area, allowing the poor to fund their small businesses and stop the cycle of poverty. The result has been nothing short of incredible: with $4.7 billion provided to 4.4 million families in Bangladesh, Yunus has kept millions of people out of poverty. Today more than 250 other institutions follow the same micro-lending model.

2. Daniel Ben-Horin, Founder of Techsoup Global

Daniel was elected as a Senior Fellow for his work as a leading social entrepreneur by Ashoka. The Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Nonprofit Times included him on its annual list of “50 Most Influential People in the Nonprofit Sector” In 1987 he founded an organization under the name CompuMentor which evolved into Techsoup and Techsoup Global as the internet started to become a vital tool for nonprofits to change the game. Their mission is to connect nonprofits with the technology they need to progress in their causes. Today, they have over 200 employees, an annual budget of $30MM+, and are in over 235 countries/territories. Their network has now reached 690,000 organizations and delivered over US$5 billion in technology tools and philanthropic services.

3. Dale Partridge, Founder of Sevenly

Dale is a social entrepreneur on a mission to inspire more generosity in the world. Sevenly sells apparel that provides $7 from each purchase to charity. Each week they work with a new charity. They have raised over $4.4 million and helped save or improve many lives.

4. Scott Harrison, Founder of charity: water

Scott went from a being well-established club promoter to a volunteer around the world and had experiences that completely changed his perspective. He was impacted by his experiences so deeply that today he has now helped millions of people gain access to clean water and continues to do so. To date, charity: water people like you have funded 17,370 water projects in 24 countries!

5. Susan B. Anthony, Social Reformer

Susan B. Anthony is a historical figure who was a leading social entrepreneur.  She fought for women’s rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead the adoption of the 19th Amendment.

Interested in Becoming a Social Entrepreneur? Well, you’re in the right place. Our goal is to give you the tools, and insights necessary to invigorate that drive to be a social entrepreneur.

If you have a way to solve a social problem, you can start your social enterprise now. Starting a social enterprise will vary in complexity depending on the task at hand, non-profit or for-profit status, and funding. Seek the guidance of friends, business professionals, and fellow social entrepreneurs, and you could be on your way to changing the world in no time.

The potential for growth is huge. The internet is opening up new avenues for social collaboration. Social entrepreneurship will continue to come from many more sources. It needs to become a mass activity, not just the domain of inspirational mavericks.

Are you the next Change Creator?

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