social entrepreneurship

It has been a topic of discussion in the international spheres with several conferences tackling different aspects of it in the recent past. The debate is now here and with others choosing to embrace it wholly others are still reworking the mechanisms of its adoption. But what remains constant to all the groups partaking in the debate is that social entrepreneurship is more than the new approach towards solving societal problems. It’s certainly the approach that has wholly worked for individuals & organizations whose desire lie in developing society while managing a reasonable return on investments made. In deciphering the logic behind the debate, a concise understanding of its basic percepts is principal.

Elaine Smith in Getting up to speed on social entrepreneurship notes that there is an ubiquitous need to welcome social business in its entrepreneurial form or encourage existing businesses that have the ability to scale social change.

The social business she refers to can be summed as businesses that recognize social problems and then uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a social venture to achieve a desired social change that mitigates against the effects of the social problem.

While a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur also measures positive returns to society. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further broaden social, cultural, and environmental goals.

In East Africa, the K-Six initiative of Allavida is an example of entrepreneurial skills being cultivated for the sake of achieving positive social, environmental as well as financial return, an approach commonly known as the triple bottom approach.

Ashoka Innovators for the Public, founded by Bill Drayton describes a social entrepreneur as one who has innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change. In this light, Corporate Social Entrepreneurship(CSE) is the embodiment of compassion, creativity and collaboration by a for-profit entity to change the patterns across society-in social, cultural and environmental terms. A for-profit entity thus embraces social entrepreneurship by identifying opportunities for and/ or championing for socially responsible activity; in addition to achieving its business targets.

Many corporate entities in East Africa have established CSR(Corporate Social Responsibility) and CSI(Corporate Social Investment) departments, while others have gone a step further to establish Foundations which aim to solve societal problems abounding to their respective consumers’ communities. Whether the principles of social entrepreneurship inform the running of the CSR & CSI programs is however open for discussion.

Examples of renowned social entrepreneurs are Florence Nightingale (founder of the first nursing school and developer of modern nursing practices), Robert Owen (founder of the cooperative movement) and Vinoba Bhave (India) Founder and leader of the Land Gift Movement, who caused the redistribution of more than 7,000,000 acres of land to aid India’s untouchables and landless

Creativity, Passion and Collaborations are common philosophies that would guide social entrepreneurs towards solving many societal problems that abound in East Africa. Is it therefore time to uptake in intoned unison by providing the time and resources for social enterprises? Would for-profit entities embracing social entrepreneurial programs be able to achieve more from their CSR/CSI departments? How can we encourage individuals and institutions (government, private and NPO’s) to engage in social entrepreneurship?

Lets have this discussion on twitter  @EAAG_Africa  #EAGrantmakers

Antonny Otieno, EAAG


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