Last Friday, I was at NUS attending the annual global iConnect 2013 event, organized by the NUS Entrepreneurship Society. The event was meant for young and budding entrepreneurs from around the world. The programme Friday evening was a discussion on Social Entrepreneurship, titled ” Social Entrepreneurship: Fashion or Passion?”
Last week we also had one of our discussion participants ask me about Social Entrepreneurship. I would like to share the part of my speech that touched on Social Entrepreneurship. Here it goes;
“Social Entrepreneurship has become very fashionable these days but do we all know what Social Entrepreneurship really is? Successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates are heavily involved in the area of social entrepreneurship, either personally or in funding such enterprises. It is an increasingly growing field of entrepreneurship and it is best that we all have a good understand of what it is all about. I am therefore glad we are gathered here today to discuss this issue.
Let me share some developments in different sections of society around the world in response to this growing awareness and interest in the area of social entrepreneurship. First, new business opportunities have started emerging as a result of the greater focus on social entrepreneurship. The base of the pyramid (BOP) business model focuses on servicing the low-income populations in the developing and also in some developed countries. In government, new legislation and incentive schemes are being developed to support social issues this new area. In the area of finance, there is talk of social stock markets and socially responsible investing. In the area of philanthropy too we are seeing many rich people putting in effort and money in support of social entrepreneurship and therefore the emergence of organizations like the Ashoka and the Schwab foundation,
The Singapore Government has been highly supportive of social enterprises, offering various incentives to aspiring entrepreneurs with a social mission in mind, making Singapore one of the most conducive environments for social enterprises to grow. Some of these Incentives include ComCare Enterprise Fund, the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Programme for Schools and the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award.
So back to the question – what is social entrepreneurship? Let me start with the Wikipedia definition. It says;
So while business entrepreneurs are focused on profits and growth of the business only, social entrepreneurs want to also achieve some social change for their effort.
Questions we should ask ourselves are;
1. Should profit orientation of a business and social objectives be done separately? I.e., let someone run a business for profit and some of the profit is ploughed into organizations run by different people that are just focused on social work – quite like what some large corporations do as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR objective.
2. Should entrepreneurship skills be used to run organizations that are first focused on social objectives and the profits generated are used to fund the social work done. That is, an all in one model. Quite like a restaurant that is run by special needs people, where productivity and profit is less important than generating the necessary profits to pay for everything.
I see these 2 examples as the 2 extreme ways of practicing social entrepreneurship…..”
The question is, which of the 2 examples do you define as Social Entrepreneurship? Number 1 or number 2? Or could there be a middle ground?
I would really be keen to hear what you have to say?