Stanford Social Innovation Review : Informing and inspiring leaders of social change

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Social Entrepreneurship

Beyond the Entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurship has become a movement that affects us all.

Those who read this blog have a good sense of what social entrepreneurship is. Or do we? For most of the past twenty years, the discussion on social entrepreneurship has focused on the entrepreneurs themselves—the amazing men and women who take on the world and inspire us to do the same. But social entrepreneurship is more than that.

Social entrepreneurship is also an ecosystem and a movement. It is an ecosystem because the funders, investors, and those thinking and writing about the field are also highly involved in the evolution of the sector and often social entrepreneurs themselves—think Bill Drayton, Jacqueline Novogratz, and Pierre Omidyar. As a movement, we have seen social entrepreneurship become a widely accepted way of thinking about solving problems—one that is impactful, meaningful, and, in many cases, inspirational. How have we reached this point?

We can agree that social entrepreneurship has given us freedom to explore and innovate new models and strategies for dealing with difficult social challenges. It has sparked an increase in business rigor and provided a set of analytic tools to organizations. Social entrepreneurship has allowed us to blur the line between profit and nonprofit on projects and in mission-driven businesses. It has introduced the notion of scale and systemic change to a degree previously unimaginable. Measurement and increased scrutiny of impact have become the norm. Today, the field of social entrepreneurship has expanded to include the entire ecosystem involved with the promotion, support, and network of those involved with an endeavor designed to make the world a cleaner, more-equitable, healthier, and better-educated place.

Webster defines a movement as an organized effort to promote or attain an end. Today, there are many players, organizations, and strategies within the field of social entrepreneurship. It has become a movement, although not a centrally organized one.

Clearly, there are many different people, organizations, and initiatives committed to a similar outcome—making the world a better place through innovation and social change, combined with business rigor. It is incumbent on entrepreneurs, as well as funders, investors, academics, and teachers who are thinking about, talking about, and taking action to bring about meaningful change.

There are a number of excellent resources devoted to understanding and emulating social entrepreneurs. What has been missing is the larger discussion of how social entrepreneurship as a movement has impacted the way philanthropy and social change gets done. What has changed and why? How has the thinking of key players within the movement evolved and influenced the trajectory of the field. The Real Problem Solvers brings together many views and perspectives within the field to help tell a more comprehensive story of this amazing new field and the implications for us all.

Read an excerpt from The Real Problem Solvers: Social Entrepreneurs in America.

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