In a better world, everyone would be able to earn their livelihood at jobs that help to make the world a better place. Many people today are finding ways to work for a better world and make a living at the same time. A social entrepreneur is someone who sees a social problem and creates a new and innovative way to address it. While some social entrepreneurs work through nonprofits, citizen groups or government programs, many create sustainable businesses to address the problem. Typical businesses measure their success by the amount of profit they make; social entrepreneurs measure their success by how big an impact they make in bringing about social change.
The term 'social entrepreneur' is fairly new - it was first used in the 1960s and 1970s. But social entrepreneurs can be found all throughout history and include many historical figures. Florence Nightingale, for example, established the first nursing school and helped develop modern nursing practices; Robert Owen created one of the first cooperative movements, and Maria Montessori, Italy's first female physician created a new education method that supports each child's unique character and development. All can be considered social entrepreneurs.
Social entrepreneurship has become even more widespread today, often to fill the gaps where government programs or nonprofit organizations haven't reached. In 2006, social entrepreneurship was featured in the spotlight when Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank (which gives microloans to poor people so that they can create their own sustainable businesses), won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The modern social entrepreneur movement began in 1981 when social entrepreneurial pioneer Bill Drayton founded Ashoka: Innovators for the Public to identify and support social entrepreneurs. To date, Ashoka has supported more than 1800 social entrepreneurs in over 60 countries. Now there are quite a number of organizations that promote social entrepreneurship as an important way to address today's social problems. The Skoll Foundation, started by eBay's first president Jeff Skoll, awards a million dollar annual prize to a number of social entrepreneurs. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, created by World Economics Forum founder Klaus Schwab, highlights social entrepreneurs of the year around the world and helps connect them to investors and to each other. YouthActionNet and YouthVenture promote social entrepreneurship as a way to empower youth who wish to help build a more peaceful, just, prosperous and sustainable world.
year the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education hosts
National Entrepreneurship Week during the last week
in February as an opportunity to raise awareness about
the importance of social entrepreneurs. In 2007 Global
Entrepreneurship Week was launched by The Kauffman Foundation,
and is observed annually during a week in November in
more than 100 countries.
(November 12 – 18, 2012 • November 18 – 24, 2013 • November 17 – 23, 2014 • November 16 – 22, 2015)
National Entrepreneurship Week
Global Entrepreneurship Week