Although the term is becoming increasingly recognized both in academia and in the business world, social entrepreneurship isn’t a modern idea.
After all, you can summarize it as the simple concept of having a business model that does not only take into consideration financial value creation but has a primary focus on social and/or ecological impact.
A social entrepreneur seeks to fill a gap in a basic need of society, with an innovative and sustainable solution, using new technologies.
The goal is to look at a pressing issue and to find a new way of solving it, different from what the system has already put in place and from governments’ solutions. Then, the social business will try to implement its solution on a larger/global scale, with a long-term vision of reducing poverty, solving an issue on health / human rights / environment / education etc.
The cool thing about social entrepreneurship is that it englobes for-profit, nonprofit, and even hybrid models. Even though the funding comes from different stakeholders according to the model, the underlying feature for all is the vision of social change.
The primary issue with social businesses is the difficulty in measuring the social impact of their solution. While financial profit is relatively self-explanatory and easily measured for a business, social / environmental impact has a ton of different variables and can be quite messy to analyze. For example, let’s say we have a social business that sells books and school supplies, stating that for each item bought, the same item will be given to children in a developing country. It would be quite easy for the business to measure how many school supplies have been given to the children over time, however, it would be much more complex to determine the role of that business in the long-term mission of providing better education to every child worldwide.
To improve impact measurement, as well as to provide accountability and transparency, Ashoka has launched in early 2012 Ashoka Changemakers, a platform that gathers together a network of social entrepreneurs, enabling information exchange and ground-breaking analysis. I would advise to go check it out, it is definitely inspiring!
It is only one of many solutions that will make it easier for social entrepreneurs to measure performance of their solutions in the long-term fight for peace, solidarity and social changes around the world.