Are you a Social Entrepreneur?

October 24, 2014

Are you a Social Entrepreneur?

Social innovation is not new. People have been disrupting the old and pioneering new social innovations for centuries. Today there is increased pressure due to global consumption and the vast economic and social disparity that exists.

Addressing unsustainable and ineffective social and ecological systems, infused with global complexity, means that very different levels of urgency and uncertainty exist. Social Innovation is going to determine the sort of world that will be left for the next generation.

A new breed of business pioneers

A significant number of people are concerned about sustainability globally and social entrepreneurs are a new breed of business pioneers exploring solutions.

Social entrepreneurs want to change the system. They spot dysfunction and look for solutions that facilitate a transition to equilibrium.

Social entrepreneurs are risk takers; they are ambitious and driven. The difference between them and other entrepreneurs is primarily their motivation. Doing the deal becomes achieving the ideal and they (tend to) measure success based on social returns.

According to John Elkington, in his book The Power of Unreasonable People (2008), some of the characteristics of successful social entrepreneurs include:

  • Try to shrug off the constraints of ideology and discipline
  • Identify and apply practical solutions to social problems combining innovation, resourcefulness and opportunity
  • Show a dogged determination that pushes them to take risks that others wouldn’t dare
  • Jump in before they are fully resourced
  • Believe that success is measured by value creation and not necessarily or only monetary returns
  • Refuse to be made as superhero’s
  • Driven by emotion: use anger of inequalities and global problems to propel action

Worldwide systems change

Yunis Mohammed is one of the most recognized social entrepreneurs and the creator of microfinance. He developed a globally adopted service providing credit and other financial resources to low income recipients.

Currently microfinance is serving 74 million borrowers who previously would not have had access to credit or funding and has been adopted by many mainstream-banking institutions globally (MicroBanking Bulletin).

This is a powerful example of how social entrepreneurs can evoke worldwide systems change that can have significant impact to the lives of millions of people. Yunis believes there are unlimited opportunities to expand and do more. He believes that we can create powerful alternatives to the orthodoxy of capitalism through a socially driven private sector created by social entrepreneurs.

It is believed that we are in the early stages of the greatest periods of creative destruction in our global economy. All of us will need to look at social innovations if we want our businesses to be competitive, sustainable and generating continuous value. Experts believe that within the next ten years there will be no major distinction between a social venture and most major businesses.

The next generation’s inheritance

Look at your values as an entrepreneur and explore the concept of blended value where you expand your businesses bottom line to include creating value in multiple dimensions: social, economic and environmental.

Winston Churchill wrote: The further you can see back the further you can see forward.

As a business leader of this generation what are you wanting to leave behind for the next generation?


Ondine Hogeboom

Ondine Hogeboom is a social entrepreneur. She started her first business at 17 and went on to launch another five businesses over the past 15 years in Southern Africa. She currently mentors a number of social innovation start-ups through the dynamic phase of business development. She is both humbled and inspired by these pioneers, taking brave new ideas out into the world in order to change the world. Follow her on Twitter, @OndineHB.