Management & Leadership

What is a social entrepreneur and how can you become one?

Jun 30, 2020 | By Signpost
What is a social entrepreneur and how can you become one?

Where compassion and capitalism mix, you get social entrepreneurs; developing businesses for the purpose of improving society. How can you become one?

Article summary

  • Social entrepreneurs focus on developing solutions to societal issues such as crime, poverty, and sustainability.
  • If you’ve identified an issue in society, and you’re developing a business or project for the purpose of addressing it, you’re a social entrepreneur.
  • Social entrepreneurs will be needed in the wake of COVID-19, using their innovative thinking and resources to help cultivate good will and raise morale in a recovering economy.

Where compassion and capitalism mix, you get social entrepreneurs; business leaders with a focus on improving society and developing solutions to issues such as poverty, crime, and the environment.

South Africa needs social entrepreneurs now more than ever; and many young South African social entrepreneurs have played their part in developing inspiring innovative projects.

Here, we take a look at the role of entrepreneurship in social development, and the path to becoming a social entrepreneur.

Understanding the role of the social entrepreneur

On the surface, the social entrepreneur is similar to the entrepreneur; they identify a problem, think of a solution to that problem, and build a company that will deliver that solution, while forming whatever partnerships need to along the way.

But for the social entrepreneur, they’re looking to identify problems and provide solutions that will be of benefit to society.

Examples of Social development companies

Examples of social development projects founded by social entrepreneurs include:

  • Ejoobi, a technology platform that connects people in rural areas with job opportunities, without requiring them to have an internet connection.
  • Memeza Community Safety, a platform that connects communities with policing forums and SAPS stations, so as to provide a low-cost alarm system.
  • Educational attractions such as 18 Gangster Museum, which serves a two-fold purpose of educating youth about the dark road so many of their contemporaries end up taking, while also giving the former gangsters, who curate the exhibition, the chance to provide first-hand accounts of gangsterism and prison.

Social entrepreneurship in the time of COVID-19

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic throws a spanner in the works, making it even more difficult for already vulnerable small and medium enterprises to survive in this era of lockdowns. Of course, such projects should be counted among those eligible for financial aid from the government.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that for entrepreneurs, a struggling economy presents room for opportunity. As the economy seeks to rebuild itself following the corona pandemic, entrepreneurs are the ones society will look to for pioneering business ideas and innovative projects. Investors will be more likely to back those projects that cultivate good will and raise morale in communities hard-hit by the corona pandemic.

Becoming a social entrepreneur

As with entrepreneurs in general, it starts off with an idea. Figuring out a problem that needs to be solved, and attempting to solve it. But for social entrepreneurs, the problem will be a societal issue, and the need to solve it will be driven by altruism rather than profit.

So if you want to become a social entrepreneur:

  • Think of a problem you want to help solve: Pollution? The lack of certain resources in underprivileged communities? The rising levels of depression and addiction? There’s no shortage of ways to make a difference.
  • Research the area you’ve chosen to play a role in: See what others have tried. Find out where they’ve failed and how you could do differently. Gain knowledge about industries you plan to operate in.
  • Look to other social development projects for inspiration: The SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards provide a platform for social entrepreneurs to showcase their projects. Obviously you don’t want to copy what others have done, but according to an article in Mail & Guardian, “…a useful social enterprise often builds on the work of others and provides integral links between other entities”.
  • Get ready to network: Networking probably comes a lot easier to traditional, profit-driven entrepreneurs than it does to social entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, your projects still needed funding, and you’ll need partners.  Fortunately, there are organisations that are eager to invest in social development projects, such as SAB Foundation, as well as government programmes that could be harnessed. Crowdfunding is also an option. You may find overlap between your projects and established companies in the industry you intend to operate in, in which case they’d appreciate the PR boost that comes from partnering with a good cause.
  • Draw up an action plan: Remember that you’re an entrepreneur, albeit a social entrepreneur, and should be approaching this from the perspective of running a business. You need an action plan; a master to-do list, to keep yourself motivated and remind you that the business is not going to simply arise by itself.

You could help prepare yourself for the world of entrepreneurship by studying professional coaching, which explores areas such as motivation, self-discipline and leadership. SACAP offers a range of coaching courses, all of which focus on areas that play a role in business management, while preparing students for the workplace with practical components. For more information, enquire now.

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