How Social Entrepreneurship Is changing the World
"Human creativity is unlimited. It is the capacity of humans to make things happen which didn't happen before. Creativity provides the key to solving our social and economic problems."
– Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank
New age entrepreneurship is rapidly evolving into a synergistic mix of conventional management skills and focusing on the context and appropriate needs of communities.
Traditional Economics, as we know, focuses on growth and growth alone. The metrics and various indices that economists put forth as a measure of growth have a myopic view, one that talks about output or production. Over a period of time, as economies started getting stressed at the seams, the concept of social responsibility and sustainability started to take centre stage. However, the way we look at progress at the micro and macro level, started to show its ugly side.
For instance, traditional economics looks at natural resources as assets to the extent that they are traded on a market and command a value. Environmental degradation and pollution cannot be quantified and hence fall out of its purview. Economic growth in traditional terms would have you measure only the increase in production, value of services and consumption. Take for example the effect of emissions on the ozone layer and the consequential effect on the environment. Traditional economics would quantify the growth of production and consumption of carbon products leaving out the disastrous effect of over exploitation or consumption on nature and communities.
Natural disaster, famine, epidemics, global warming etc., all fuelled by a short-sighted approach have taken centre stage. The need to look forward and redefine economics and the way we imagine the world, countries and businesses is slowly but surely gaining attention.
From the 3 P's of Triple bottom Line (PEOPLE and PLANET along with PROFIT), there has now been a radical shift towards a deeper understanding, a move towards people, planet and prosperity. The planet, as we all know, is endowed with resources that are rapidly depleting in our quest for progress. The world is facing multifarious issues with society, e.g., climate, poverty, unemployment to name a few. Many of these have been due to apathy or failures of Corporates and Governments. The need of the hour is to look at an inclusive development, one that is driven by values, humanity and above all to think of a regenerative approach to growth.
As Kate Raworth, author of "Doughnut Economics" aptly states :
" Rethinking economics is not about finding one (a model) because it doesn't exist; it's about choosing or creating one that best serves our purpose - reflecting the context we face, the values we hold and the aims we have. As humanity's values, context and aims continually evolve, so too should the way we envision the economy. "
A Social Entrepreneur thus, looks to merge a transformational approach to profit through innovative business models or simply to create new ones that look to tackle these societal issues. A deeper understanding of human culture and function of natural systems is required and needs to be fused with conventional economics.
What is Social Entrepreneurship
There have been many and conflicting thoughts on the real meaning and essence of Social Entrepreneurship over time. The concept of Social Entrepreneurship continues to evolve. However, the nearest answer to the question appears to be given by Zahra et al, 2009 where they say-
" Social entrepreneurship encompasses the activities and processes undertaken to discover, define, and exploit opportunities in order to enhance social wealth by creating new ventures or managing existing organisations in an innovative manner. "
While conventional business innovators/ entrepreneurs look at the design of products and services that change people's lives, social entrepreneurship goes further to look at the need to foster a lasting and positive change in society.
Thus, we look at the characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship to encompass innovation, initiative and opportunity to have a positive impact on social wealth, either in existing or new organisations.
Going forward, social entrepreneurs need to ADD an approach that looks at diverging from a problem-solving approach to a systemic approach that is holistic in nature.
Social Entrepreneurship as an agent of change
Social entrepreneurship is a blend of thought processes that focus on a combination of purely for-profit and that of being driven by efforts to drive social change. Some of this effort is driven by governments who look at collaborative change agents through legislation. On the other hand, we have a scenario where stakeholders-customers, investors, employees, and society have started showing increased awareness of social responsibility. For governments to drive social change, a huge investment and effort is needed. Willingness apart, finances and logistics often become an impediment for them.
Organisations have stepped up and have started to make an impact. Businesses now realise that in the long run, a socially entrepreneurial approach helps their image and their brands.
Some of the impact we have seen is in the areas/ due to -
Job Creation – Inequality and dignity of labour is one of the major issues of today and progress on gainful employment and underemployment has been an area of concern. Prosperity is limited due to several reasons such as gender inequality, physical disability, racial discrimination etc. To root out the real cause and make a change by integrating the marginalised needs a change of mindset. Social entrepreneurship seeks to look at making a lasting change, something that can be achieved only through tackling the problem at the socio-cultural level.
Change is now visible on the ground and marginalised groups of society have started to benefit from this new approach. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), observed that social enterprises act as an "intermediate between unemployment and the open labour market" through integration of large groups of workers into the job market. We have several examples at home where many organisations hire workers suffering from disability or reserve positions for women in a traditionally male-dominated job market. All this helps them to integrate into the mainstream besides leading to a gradual change in the mindset.
Financial Inclusion and Microfinance – Poorer nations often have large workforces that are either underemployed or do not have jobs at all. Access to gainful occupation is difficult due to a host of reasons. India has the world's second largest workforce and though wages have been increasing steadily over time, the latest World Bank report states that about 350 million people are below the poverty line. This may be due to overpopulation and lack of adequate job opportunities for gainful employment.
The Social Entrepreneur looks at finding ways to reach out to the bottom of the economic pyramid and look at uplifting their status and prosperity. Finding the causes and working to mitigate them led to the evolution of Microfinance. This sector has been instrumental in creating opportunities for low-income households by providing access to credit that was previously beyond the reach of conventional lenders thereby leading to their social and dominant development.
Microfinancing addresses the need of people who lack finances, do not have collaterals to take loans or are illiterate to understand the nuances of paperwork. This sector addresses these issues and makes finance available to the poor to enable them to start small ventures and make them productive for themselves and the nation. Many examples come to mind, the pioneer Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and SKS Microfinance in India. For example, SKS has been arranging microloans for poor women in impoverished areas of India and is one of the largest and fastest growing microfinance organisations in the world.
Climate Change - Climate change is the result of over exploitation and misuse of resources ongoing for decades. We have been hearing of global warming and pollution for some time now, and are only now beginning to sit up and take notice. Social entrepreneurship looks to address this issue through the use of sustainable practices, adaptability, innovation and collaboration. While the global community aims to mitigate and adapt to this serious problem through legally binding Climate Treaties, work on the ground level is being done through the efforts of Social Entrepreneurs who look to tackle the problem differently.
There are many examples of visionaries and one of them is Poonsap Suanmuang in Thailand. Her approach has been exemplary as it promotes traditional practices that help nature to regenerate through tree preservation for future use and growing new trees. She leads a group of ladies known as "Panmai" who get colour dyes from leaves and barks or parts of branches in a manner which does not destroy trees. She works with them in rural areas and creates work opportunities, prevents forest destruction, eliminates water and ground pollution created by chemical dies. She also helps market their products to create awareness of tradition.
Healthcare - The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one billion people lack access to healthcare, and the problem keeps increasing as billions are pushed into poverty as they look to access it. In third world countries with large populations, healthcare for the poor is beset with challenges like affordability, availability and quality. Since governments by themselves are unable to provide solutions due to paucity of finance, answers to these issues have to be found and fast.
Many Social entrepreneurs have been increasingly stepping up their efforts with impact investments in healthcare. Change is happening through visionary social entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates who through the Bill Gates & Melinda Gates Foundation have been channelling their massive wealth by focusing on critical healthcare issues ranging from HIV Aids in Africa to tuberculosis in India. More recently, grants to poorer nations fighting the COVID pandemic speaks of the commitment, and vision of one of the greatest social entrepreneurs of the modern world.
However, the need of the hour is to look at a holistic approach to human health and wellness. The idea is not just dependent on treating the problem but to eliminate the cause.
The Social Entrepreneur, as an agent of change, looks to achieve prosperity for the people that inhabit the planet. The aim is to ensure personal fulfilment and prosperity for human beings and all progress, whether economic, social or technological, be in harmony with nature.
Social Entrepreneurship - Need of the hour:
Our existence in the long run depends solely on a regenerative approach to the way we do business, and manage economies. Human civilization today has its work cut out as it grapples with the pressing issues at hand. Now is the time to act and save civilization from disaster. The self-healing and regenerative process needs to begin.
While Social Entrepreneurship is changing the way in which businesses conduct themselves, there is an urgent need for the younger generation to come forward with their inbuilt enthusiasm, commitment and ideas.
They can be the agents of change and make the world a better place to live in the present, and the future. The entrepreneurs of tomorrow should look to combine the quest for profit with a missionary zeal. The true leader of tomorrow will be the one who strikes a balance and helps achieve the global goal of prosperity and harmony.
Take a step with the Indian School of Development Management and make an impact in the social sector. ISDM is a unique and pioneering school of management for the social sector where the curriculum does not merely retrofit Business Management to development projects, but is one that is born specifically from the coming together of the two crucial domains of development and management.
Advance your career with the unique flagship Post Graduate Program - Development Management.