It all started in the 1980’s. Ashoka Foundation’s Bill Drayton started using the expression social entrepreneur to describe the people he funded to fix the world’s problems. He may not be the first one to do so in History, but he is the first to use it for the way we conceive it today: the adaptation of business and innovation methods to needs of social importance.
We went through several definitions of social entrepreneurship and the best so far is the perception of entrepreneur from India Narendra Kumar on his Quora profile: “Social Entrepreneurs identify public problems and apply business expertise to resolve them. Instead of using an endeavour completely to make a profit, they aim at concurrently impacting a society and regulating positive change.” The success of such an endeavour is, therefore, assessed not just on the basis of balance sheets, but on the effect it has had on a community.
There are several types of social entrepreneurs, but the article breaks them down into three variations, along with their strategies and challenges: Social Bricoleur, Social Constructionist, and Social Engineer.
- Social Bricoleurs usually focus on discovering and addressing small-scale local social needs. (Objectif Bac by Social Change Factory aims at fighting against the failure rate of 70% in the country by gathering volunteers to go to small villages to help students revise before the exam for them to graduate from high school.)
- Social Constructionists typically exploit opportunities and market failures by filling gaps to underserved clients in order to introduce reforms and innovations to the broader social system. (PayDunya aims at allowing unbanked people in Africa to access markets that have always been closed to them. Those people can now buy, but also sell through the service.)
- Social Engineers recognize systemic problems within existing social structures and address them by introducing revolutionary change. (Kusoma Group aims at democratizing books’ access across Africa by publishing digital books sold at low prices and purchasable through mobile money services on their website.)
For the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s Special Topic Report on Social Entrepreneurship (PDF), there is no clear boundary concerning which social and environmental problems should be the responsibility of governments and which problems may, at least partly, be left open for the market for private and other non-governmental organisations. In this regard, a collaboration between governments and the private sector to resolve social problems should be considered since their work is complemetary.
The Government of Hong Kong is a great example of public support to social entrepreneurship. The Business Specialist Dr Chi-Hing Kee extensively worked on the topic: all startup businesses need startup funds, entrepreneurial skills and market demand for their products or services. Apart from funding more than 40 percent of social enterprise start-ups, the government also picks and supports those who have demonstrated their knowledge and skills through business plans, ensuring the right entrepreneurial skills are in place when a social enterprise starts.
Despite obstacles, social entrepreneurship is developing across the globe in general and Africa in particular. This article will be concluded with a figure of the special topic report mentioned above. The figure summarises the Prevalence of individuals in operational social entrepreneurial activity by economy across 58 countries, included Cameroon, Botswana, Senegal, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, South Africa and Tunisia.
Senegal, which is an efficiency-driven economy* is the country with the highest rate of people between 18 and 64 years old currently operational in the social entrepreneurship domain with 14%. The efficiency-driven economy** Morocco has the lowest rate among African countries, about 1%.
*Countries compete primarily on the use of unskilled labor and natural resources and on the basis of price as they buy and sell basic products or commodities
**Growth is based on the development of more efficient production processes and increased product quality
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