The world is filled with global grand challenges and worthy causes. Business as usual cannot meet these challenges. These challenges are so large, they require all of us. It requires you.
But doing what? The answer is social entrepreneurship, businesses with both a profit and a purpose. There are barriers that can keep you from starting. We’re here to overcome those barriers.
The Problems That Demand Social Entrepreneurship
We’re all familiar with the challenges faced by developing countries. We struggle with poverty, hunger and disease. There is a lack of opportunity for education, especially for girls and women. Climate change is creating extreme weather, including drought. This exasperates youth unemployment and leads to the rise of extremism.
In middle-income countries, we also struggle. The middle class is shrinking. Manufacturing and other well-paying jobs are disappearing due to outsourcing, globalization and automation. Families have less disposable income. Student loan debt is soaring. Families have no savings and no safety net. A recent survey found that 47% of Americans could not absorb a surprise bill of $400. Fifty year-olds have been laid off without a pension. The world is suffering.
What Does Not Work
Governments and charities have tried to step into the breach, but they lack the resources or even the mandate to tackle the challenges before us. Traditional businesses have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value instead of tackling social and environmental causes. We need a better way. We need social entrepreneurs.
We Need Social Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Disruptive businesses have rapidly reshaped our world. Social entrepreneurs use the world-changing power of commerce to take on the grand challenges of our day. They create both profit and purpose.
What Stands In the Way of Becoming a Social Entrepreneur?
If social entrepreneurship is the answer, what stands in the way? Why don’t people start new social enterprises?
Surveys have found that there are five basic reasons why people don’t start any enterprise, including a social enterprise. For each of them, there is a solution. And yet, these are legitimate hurdles to be overcome.
- Fear of financial instability. This makes sense in light of what we discussed above.
- Not enough time. We live busy lives. Many people are working more than one job. Others are working lots of hours trying to keep up with one job. Some are raising young families.
- Don’t have a big enough idea. Some people would love to start a business, if only they had a killer idea.
- Other feel that they don’t have the right skills. That’s not surprising is it? Where does one go to school to learn about entrepreneurship.
- Self-doubt. Many people ask themselves “Who am I to take on such a grand challenge?”
All of these are legitimate concerns. And yet, for each of them, there is a way to overcome the challenges. People do it every day.
The Answers Are Out There
Yes, there are challenges to getting started, and yet, there is help available.
- Accelerators and Incubators – Fledge, Unreasonable Institute, Conscious Ventures Lab and others incubate social businesses.
- Fellowship programs such as the Bush Foundation, Acumen and Echoing Green provide nurturing environments and critical connections to social entrepreneurs.
- A startup ecosystem. Founders, funders and mentors exist in almost every major city to support early stage social entrepreneurs.
There are more resources that I have not named. And yet, many of these support systems require that a social entrepreneur be at a certain stage of maturity before they can join their ranks. So, how do we support social entrepreneurs before they reach that level of maturity? We need all of us. How do we put more people into the hopper of social entrepreneurship? How do we help you to overcome the barriers to entry?
The Answer is…You!
The poet June Jordan said “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” The answer is you – and it is me and it is all of us together. What we need is a way in – a door that lets more and more people into the world of social entrepreneurship.
So, how do you get started? Well, the internet is filled with resources -many of them free and some of questionable quality. You could spend your time searching and vetting these resources.
I want to help you get started. You could listen to the stories of successful changemakers on the podcast Social Entrepreneur. Every week we bring you stories of people who are making an impact in the world.
We also have a resource for early stage and aspiring social entrepreneurs. It’s called Culture Shift Learning Academy. Enrollment is closed right now, but you can sign up to be notified when enrollment opens again. As a thank you gift, I’ll send you the Social Entrepreneurship Readiness Assessment. It will help you measure where you are on your journey.
We face massive challenges. But there is a way that we can overcome them. What we need, is you. We are the ones that we have been waiting for.