Social Innovators and Social Entrepreneurs (An Introduction)
- A society that does not have an optimistic, positive, empowering image of the future is endangered.
- When society is skewed so that a small minority controls most of its resources and power, it begins an entropic spiral to dissolution.
- Social innovators can use their skills to rebalance society.(And remember, anyone with the will can be a social innovator.)
Social innovators are change agents that improve society by developing effective and equitable new models to help bring society more into balance regarding the economy and social justice. Social entrepreneurs take the innovation a step further by developing ventures that successfully implement the change model. These ventures are often less hierarchical yet more cooperative and complex than existing models. The overall goal of social innovators is sustainability, i.e, living within planetary capacities in an equitable manner. In general social innovators come up with new and more effective ways (systemically, organizationally, financially etc.) of dealing with and hopefully mitigating social problems. I break down social entrepreneurship into three categories: social or community focused enterprise, community focused design/engineering, and community focused leadership. It must be said that there is considerable overlap between them.
Social entrepreneurship has been defined by researchers and practitioners in various ways but a common denominator is a venture that adds value to a community mission through innovative, risk-taking, business-like practices. Social entrepreneurs are concerned more with collective or communal benefit than their own individual benefit. Social entrepreneurs combine innovation with fulfillment of community needs and their work overlaps with social justice and environmental preservation movements. So, social entrepreneurs channel innovation into "social enterprises" or "social ventures" that support sustainability, both of individual businesses and the larger community.
Social enterprise practitioners working for established or newly created non-profit agencies use the tools and forms of business to provide needed goods and services that help the community at large as well as their clients. They also help themselves by generating earned income. "Social enterprises" developed by social entrepreneurs may be hybrid, non-profit or for-profit entities (Some prefer the use of the alternative nomenclature "for-benefit" organizations.) Other related concepts are sustainable entrepreneurship (innovative products, services, and production processes that alleviate social or environmental conditions, make more efficient use of energy and natural resources, and harness renewable resources that save costs, lower risks, and are less harmful to society) and community entrepreneurship (philosophy that sustainable urban districts can best be created when entrepreneurs have a strong commitment to the customers and communities where they operate businesses).
Community focused design and engineering is a sub-process of social entrepreneurship that channels new techniques in design, engineering, and the physical sciences into projects that support sustainable products, buildings, villages, cities, and planet. Another related concept is appropriate technology (technological choice and application that is small scale, labor intensive, energy efficient, environmentally sound and locally controlled). Environmental preservation advocates, engineers, designers, et al. working on techniques for saving energy, preserving the biosphere, and serving the design-related needs of low-income and disabled populations are examples of this type of social entrepreneur.
Community focused leadership is another sub-process of social entrepreneurship that channels innovations in transformational leadership, governance, human performance technology etc. into ways of supporting sustainable development and sustainable community and political organizations. Other related concepts are community innovation (changes in local community system(s) that generate dramatic, not just incremental, boosts in the system's performance), asset based community development (utilizing the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development) and transcendent leadership (dimensions of spirituality [consciousness, moral character, and faith]that incorporate the efficient managerial aspects of transactional theory and the positive charismatic aspects of transformational theory to enhance leader and thus organizational effectiveness). These types of social entrepreneur may be government and corporate officials, nonprofit leaders, educators, mentors, et al.