The term "social entrepreneurship" is becoming more prevelent these days, with many business claiming to have some sort of social aspect to their business. But what exactly is social entrepreneurship? Pamela Hartigan, former director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, gives her definition in an interview in Upsides:
‘Social entrepreneurship is about innovative and transformative solutions to social and environmental problems.’
Hartigan is firm believer that eventually all entrepreneurship will be social entrepreneurship, with more people putting sustainability in all forms at the heart of their business ventures. At her recent lecture for the Entrepreneurship Centre's Building a Business Series, Hartigan outlined the need to think about social responsibility from the outset. “We need to manage for the long-term as well as the short term”, she said, “and break down the walls that separate where we make our money and how we benefit society.” Hartigan outlined how younger people are now more likely to want to work for companies that can prove they are not just ticking boxes when it comes to social responsibility; it is becoming more relevant to actually care. So it is important to embed a sense of responsibility and desire to “do good” from the beginning of any new venture.
The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, based in the Said Business School in Oxford, explains what social entrepreneurship is, and, more interestingly, is not, on their website . It is not philanthropy, or activism, or companies with a foundation. The key concepts of social entrepreneurship involve innovation, market analysis, and systems change. As a result, being a social entrepreneur means that you are focussed on changing the processes which cause human or environmental degradation, by way of non-for-profit or for-profit companies, with the intention of creating sustainable change.
This desire to benefit society is beneficial not only at a global level, where challenges faced worldwide can be worked on, but also at the local level, as evidenced by the work the Oxford Hub is doing. Madeleine Ellis-Petersen was one of the project managers at the Oxford Hub: "The Oxford Hub runs a programme to support students and staff involved or interested in social enterprise. The programme involves training, events, workshops and funding, and has something for all, whatever the stage of your project or interest! Some of the projects we've supported in the past are 'The Hog Roast Cafe', a community run social enterprise growing food on-site and generating revenue and support for a local eco-project, and Clean Sl8, a soap recycling enterprise. "
Both the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and the Oxford Hub play a role in working towards a better, fairer society, and both offer ways to get involved. Have a look at their website, give them a call, or go for visit. . . but get involved!