Style & Fashion

2016 – The Year of the Social Entrepreneur?

Social-Entrepreneur.-By-Justin-Luebke

Success can mean different things to different people. For most people, it is about making money (lots of money), creating something unique that will become a legacy, or simply achieving the perfect work/life balance. But for some people, success can’t be measured in dollars or vacation days – for social entrepreneurs, success is nothing less than making the world a better place. And there has never been a better time to pursue this dream.

Over the past few years, sustainability and ethics have become buzzwords within companies of every shape and size. More and more corporations are pledging to go ‘carbon neutral’ in an effort to help the environment, and no mission statement is complete without a line on that buzziest of all buzzwords: ‘corporate social responsibility’.

In fact, social enterprise has become downright trendy. In 2000, then-richest man in the world Bill Gates set up the world’s largest private charity, the Bill Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating infectious illnesses in developing countries. And just this September, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg went one better, pledging to “cure, prevent or manage all disease” within a generation.

However, most social entrepreneurs are not existing billionaires or company executives. They are the young creatives, innovative start-ups, and open-minded venture capitalists who have sewn social awareness into the very fabric of their business. Think Bernard Amadei, the founder of Engineers without Borders, who developed a game-changing way of bringing clean water to remote communities in developing countries. Or Jane Chen, who created the ‘Thermpod’ – a heat-retentive sleeping bag which keeps premature babies warm in hospitals with unreliable electricity. Or even Slava Rubin, Eric Schell and Danae Ringelmann, the three founders of Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site which has helped fund thousands of charitable and meaningful causes.

These are the people who have made ‘social entrepreneurship’ a viable career path for budding business men and women. But more significantly, they have also proven that it is possible to combine philanthropy with profit. And investors are starting to take notice. There has never been so much support for up and coming social entrepreneurs. In the UK, the government offers generous tax breaks for anyone who invests in or lends to social enterprises, and in the US, Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are available to socially-beneficial companies with a proven track record.

These are the people who have made ‘social entrepreneurship’ a viable career path for budding business men and women. But more significantly, they have also proven that it is possible to combine philanthropy with profit. And investors are starting to take notice. There has never been so much support for up and coming social entrepreneurs. In the UK, the government offers generous tax breaks for anyone who invests in or lends to social enterprises, and in the US, Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are available to socially-beneficial companies with a proven track record.

But the real growth opportunities lie with private investors. More and more people want to invest in companies which are ethically sound, and put people before profits. Modern banking structures such as peer-to-peer lending are able to capitalise on this, offering a direct line between borrowers and lenders, so that people can see exactly where their money is going and how it is helping people. There are numerous investment trusts and funds which are focused on sustainable companies and social enterprises, and private investment groups such as Ashoka are dedicated to bringing funding directly to promising social entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, there are a plethora of awards, grants, loans, and other funding schemes available across the US and Europe, all trying to highlight the great work that is being done by innovators and creative thinkers across the world.

With so many tools at their disposal, there is every reason to expect to see a surge in social enterprise over the coming months and years. Who knows – the next world-changing idea may be just around the corner.

How do you know if you’re a social entrepreneur?

Answer the following questions to figure out whether you are a full-blown social entrepreneur, or just a regular profit-chasing entrepreneur.

  • Are you driven by a desire to help people?
  • Have you established your own business, product or consultancy niche?
  • Are you changing – or at least trying to change – the way business is done in your sector?
  • Can you handle failure?
  • Do you have a realistic plan to set social change in motion?
  • Do you truly believe you can change the world for the better?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, you are well on your way to becoming a social entrepreneur – keep doing what you’re doing, hold your head high, and use every tool at your disposal to make 2016 the year of the social entrepreneur!

Related topics:Business Style Entrepreneurship Organizational culture
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