What is a Social Entrepreneur?


Nowadays, several definitions of social entrepreneurship coexist. I think this ambiguity might sometimes dilute social entrepreneurs’ image, reduce their credibility vis-a-vis other entrepreneurs, weaken the relevance of the insights they receive and, ultimately, harm their purpose. Therefore, having a shared understanding of what social entrepreneurship means seems essential.

A Social Entrepreneurship Definition

From my perspective, a social entrepreneur is an entrepreneur whose decisions are primarily driven towards effecting lasting, large-scale social benefits. This definition covers a specific section of the social-business hybrid spectrum, including non-profit organizations that leverage business tools to achieve sustainability and pursue their social mission at scale. However, it excludes corporations practising social responsibility as their social impact is not their primary focus.

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Some Insights Regarding Social Entrepreneurs

After meeting with social entrepreneurs from various industries and backgrounds, I noticed that their similarities outweigh their differences by one order of magnitude.

First, they have all developed a social fibre through experiences that have changed their understanding of the world. And, this evolution led them to solve problems they witnessed or suffered themselves, usually by leveraging their passions or previous knowledge.

The social entrepreneurs I have met are also extremely action-oriented and lean towards a trial-and-error approach to problem-solving. They are uncomfortable with the status quo and feel the urgency to break it.

However, they are down-to-earth and want to effect social impact while generating benefits for themselves as well. These benefits can sometimes take a cathartic form: they relieve their pain by preventing others from suffering.

My discussions also underlined that social entrepreneurs are resilient and believe they have (or can find) the skills to tackle the obstacles standing in their path. Nevertheless, this observation might be an instance of survivorship bias. Indeed, less optimistic people might have given up during the early stages of their journey, and I would not have had the chance to meet them. Otherwise, being overly optimistic can sometimes be the only path to succeed - as Mark Twain put it, “they did not know it was impossible, so they did it.”

Interestingly, despite their optimism and urge to act, social entrepreneurs I have met are not risk-takers. They started their venture with small investments and a homemade do-it-yourself approach. My chats revealed that this risk aversion could sometimes generate challenges when advancing to a higher-stake stage.

Finally, I find that social entrepreneurs I know are particularly open to new ideas and insights. Nonetheless, this inference may be biased as they are all people willing to chat!

Thank you

Thanks so much for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it!

Reach out to me via LinkedIn anytime.