Ever heard of people that are crazy enough to think they can save the world? Welcome to social entrepreneurship!
While there are many different definitions for social enterprise, you can start by keeping the following fact in mind: a social entrepreneur is a person who, just like a regular entrepreneur, identifies a need. However, this need will more likely resemble an injustice or an inequality. Take Mamie et Moi, a company enabling retired grandmas to use their talent and knit handmade baby clothes. On one hand, thanks to Mamie et Moi, these grandmas can supplement their retirement grant and keep an enjoyable and social activity. On the other hand, Mamie & Moi offers a high quality and unique collection of baby clothing. You got the idea, but still wondering why you should go for social entrepreneurship? Bear with me!
1. You will be an inspirational source of impact
There is entrepreneurial passion and there is impact. Guess what, in a social enterprise you can have both! How about putting your energy into solving a meaningful issue that will contribute to make our society progress and/or our environment more sustainable?
On the employees side, we are getting familiar with these newbies called “Millennials” who are slowly but surely starting to occupy the workplace. They have a different sense of priority and, as fastcompany.com reminds us, only a few rank money as #1 criteria while a majority “wants to work with purpose”.
Social enterprises fulfill a pressing desire to work with purpose and align people’s efforts with their values.
A growing number of companies already started to enhance the link between purpose and work. Social enterprises however, truly fulfill this pressing desire to work with purpose and align people’s efforts with their values.
Global success stories such as Tom Shoes and the Grameen Bank, but also local ones such as Scholly in the US or Triodos in Belgium highlight the opportunities for employees to switch from #workforsalary to #workforpurpose. Even better: Beliefs stating that “doing good” cannot be turned into a viable business finally fade away. So yes, you can survive economically speaking while tackling a social or environmental issue.
2. You will respond to customers' needs
You surely have noticed that our sustainability awareness has been rising in the past years. The Guardian states that even the crisis “has not dented people to minimize their impact on the environment and their spends on ethical products”. This means that there is a market for businesses having a social mission at the core of their raison d’être.
It’s true that social enterprise’s customer segments can be tough to handle because there are often not only the clients’ but also the beneficiaries’ needs to fulfill. Moreover, as the former segment is allowing the social business to serve the latter, there is a balance to be worked out. Take the example of a social grocery as Eis Epicerie in Zolwer (LU) that has regular clients paying the fair price for local and fair trade products so that the beneficiaries of the social office can access these products for an affordable amount.
However, the current trend for environmentally friendly and ethical products dispels doubts about the lack of opportunities for social businesses to be profitable. In brief, as long as there is a need to fulfil and a viable business to develop, there’s no reason for you to shy away from the customer segment challenge.
3. You will enjoy a satisfying working environment
Already heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Cooperative management, Teal Organizations? These participatory and even self-managed models have been emerging throughout the past years. If you’re curious about these models, have a look at Terra Coop (LU) which is a CSA cooperative company launched a few years ago. Other great examples but this time regarding the teal organizations would be Patagonia, buffer or medium.
These organizational models resonate with an increasing number of employees. Remember the newbies? Millennials are especially fond of these practices, but not only them. Flat hierarchies where our opinions are valued, where we actively contribute in the decision making process and where we work more flexibly, appeal to us.
According to the European Commission a social enterprise is one whose “method of organization or ownership system reflects their mission, using democratic or participatory principles or focusing on social justice”
Social enterprises have a major card to play here since they have participative governance in their DNA. In fact, according to the European Commission a social enterprise is one whose “method of organization or ownership system reflects their mission, using democratic or participatory principles or focusing on social justice”
You got it, social enterprises necessarily integrate participatory management at their core. This makes them the place to be for workers trying to avoid hierarchical and top-down structures.
4. You can't ignore the facts
The last years have showcased the urgency to address environmental, social and societal issues. In fact, around 10% of the world’s population still lives with less than 1.90 dollars a day, global warming has reached a record height in 2015, global waste is forecasted to tripe up to 11 million tons a day by 2100, deaths occurring during migration movements were estimated at more than 5000, and a lot more of them have become more and more pressing.
Even though non-for-profits, non-governmental organizations and governments have been bravely fighting for improvements and solutions, it’s still not enough. We all need to join forces and integrate these issues in their daily lives.
From this point of view social enterprises offer a one stop shop for you to earn your daily bread while being part of the inescapable need to offer solutions to the world’s woes. Indeed, knowing that work more than ever represents a big part of our daily life, there is a major stake at integrating the quest for sustainability in your work space and work hours.
There is neither time nor effort to be wasted in unsustainable practices and hopefully you're one of an increasing number of people that have come to the same conclusion.
5. You have no excuse!
Even if you don't feel like taking on an entrepreneurial path, there is another way for you to generate impact: social innovation.
I surely don’t want to get you confused, but take a closer look at it: Social entrepreneurship is more about the entrepreneur as a person. Social innovation focuses on a novel solution that brings value to society as a whole. This means that social innovation takes a more holistic approach and blows up the barriers that separate strictly social businesses from other actors in order to foster social value creation throughout all kinds of channels.
Social innovation blows up the barriers that separate strictly social businesses from other actors in order to foster social value creation throughout all kinds of channels.
When looking around you will come across a variety of actors working for the common good. Design student Ari Jónsson who designed the Dezeen bottle made out of red algae powder instead of plastic: biodegradable and even edible! Not only students, but also big companies can have an impact thanks to social innovation. For example, Twitter has introduced a feature allowing blind people to get an audible description of pictures. Warby Parker a glass company is training people to conduce eye exams and sell glasses to disadvantaged communities. Finally, at the cities’ level, Eindhoven (NL) revolutionized social services with its WijEindhoven program fostering citizen to help each other out and adapting social services to the citizens’ particular needs.
In a nutshell, you have plenty of great opportunities to become one of the crazy heroes that will change our world be it by becoming a social entrepreneur or by developing social innovation in your company, in a non-for-profit or at a governmental level. So no excuses, go for it!
If you would like to look deeper into the sources that I drew my figures and definition from, please click on following links: