Social entrepreneurship is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot with a good deal of ambiguity. Much like “disruption,” “sustainability,” and “empowerment,” it sounds positive and like something our world needs, but many people who use it hold different definitions of what it means in practice. Equally, many people who hear it may think they know its meaning, but have a misunderstanding of the values that lie at its core.
At Authenticitys, social entrepreneurship is what motivates us to wake up in the morning, build communities, and put our ideas into action. We strongly believe in this concept and think it’s important to define it and celebrate it for all the positive change that it has catalyzed.
According to Ashoka, the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, “social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.” Social entrepreneurs tend to simultaneously be realistic and visionary. They want to see their ideas put into practice on the widest scale possible to effect positive change in the lives of their target demographic. However, differing slightly from charity work or non profits, social entrepreneurship often does have a business motivation or a need to earn money. The difference is that a company or start-up’s bottom line is not the only thing that motivates the decisions and actions of a social entrepreneur. What’s more is that the business aspect is generally seen as a way to make the idea or innovation scalable and applicable to all. This differs from a charity-minded approach, which is limited by donors’ willingness to fund a project.
So while a social entrepreneur may be attracting funding in the same way a for-profit tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley might, they view investment as a means to a very different end. A concrete example of this is a “B Corporation” in the United States, which is a business designation that is used to classify for-profit companies who “include positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit” as part of their goals and commitment to shareholders. As the social enterprise space grows apace with the tech world, and many of the same terms are used to describe the growth of both kinds of companies—accelerators, incubators, VCs etc—it’s important to be clear on the distinction between the two. Social entrepreneurs don’t just value growth for growth’s sake; the how and why of the growth matter profoundly. As our founder says, “if we really want to generate this deep change, we need to create a system that incentivizes a different style of investment, one that puts into value founder’s long-term visions and humane management practices.” At Authenticitys, that is why we are trying to create a sustainable and impactful business that will have a positive impact on the communities we exist in. Authenticitys has projects in X countries, working with change makers, innovators, and project founders from all different walks of life. This reflects one of the most beautiful aspects of social entrepreneurship: it rarely happens in a vacuum. Collaborating, providing feedback, and forging networks and connections are all actions that are completely central to the life of a social entrepreneur. All around the world, networks of like-minded individuals are popping up to help each other’s projects soar and share best practice around various topics. Some of our favorite networks are MakeSense, an international community in 146 countries across the world which helps social entrepreneurs to solve their challenges, and Impact Hub, an innovation lab, business incubator, and social enterprise community center that exists in 81 cities all over the globe. These communities help projects like ours thrive by giving us the confidence we need when we’re unsure and the minds to bounce ideas off of when we’re excited. They are the biggest perk to being a social entrepreneur, and we invite you to get involved.