If you have heard the term “Social Entrepreneur” but can’t exactly define what that means, you are not alone. I spent some time today on Twitter, trying to find the difference between a “social entrepreneur organization” and a plain old organization – the kind we all know in our communities. I came up empty-handed.
Alison Rapping posted a similar request several months ago, asking, “What Really Is a Social Entrepreneur?” She shared some great links to definitions and lots of ideas. But she, too, found no definitive answer in the responses at her post.
I know many individuals who consider their organizations to be social entrepreneurial ventures. Like other organizations, those social ventures have board problems and funding problems. They see themselves in competition with other organizations doing similar work.
And so aside from the fact that they consider their approaches to be innovative, plus the fact that they are not opposed to using business methods to generate revenues (with confessedly varying degrees of success), I am struggling to find what the difference is between a social entrepreneur venture and every other organization working to create a better world.
My wondering comes from a practical place. I am in the middle of exploring and planning the development of Creating the Future as an organization. (I will be sharing my thinking here as soon as those thoughts are coherent enough to write down!)
The goal of that plan is to help those working to create a humane, vibrant, equitable world reach for their potential to make that change happen.
A pre-requisite to helping people reach for their potential is to meet them wherever they are along that path.
And a pre-requisite to meeting them where they are is to understand where they are and where they perceive themselves to be.
So for us, this is not an academic question. To be able to help Social Entrepreneurs reach their highest potential to create an amazing future for our world, we need to understand what they mean when they call themselves Social Entrepreneurs. We need to know what difference they believe that makes for their work.
So if you consider your work to be that of a social entrepreneur rather than a “regular old nonprofit organization,” could you share what it is that creates that distinction?
- What does your board talk about that is different from what other boards talk about?
- How is the work you do different on a daily basis than what others do?
- Spending time at your organization, what would I experience that is different? What would stand out or make me take notice? What would I feel or see or hear that would make me say, “Oh I get it – this is indeed different from an organization that is not a social enterprise!” ?
- What results are you achieving that others are not achieving?
- What change is happening because of the way your work is being done, that would not otherwise be able to be achieved?
I look forward to learning from this conversation. Thoughts, anyone?