Social Entrepreneurship Issues

A female doctor with the International Medical Corps examines a woman patient at a mobile health clinic in Pakistan [Photo by DFID - UK Department for International Development] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

One of the biggest advantages to a social entrepreneurship approach is that it can be used to address a wide variety of critical social issues. The environment is one of the top social issues that social entrepreneurs may choose to focus on. Within this category, social entrepreneurs may choose to address pollution, emissions, rain forest destruction, disappearing wetlands, and similar issues.

Some social entrepreneurs make a distinction between natural environmental issues including water, air and natural resources and built environmental issues like energy sources and building construction. Healthcare is another major issue that many social entrepreneurs look to address. Healthcare is a controversial topic in countries around the world, including the US.

Everywhere you look, it seems that communities are struggling to effectively address the health care needs of individuals. Whether it is concerns about malnutrition, poor living habits or lack of health care access each local community faces its own health care challenges. Today, many prestigious universities around the world are also putting a major focus on social entrepreneurship issues due to an increased interest on the part of their students. Through these innovative programs, young people are learning how they can make a real difference in the world by becoming agents of change. They are learning from the examples of successful social entrepreneurs who work in a variety of fields, many of whom are also young innovators.

Erika addresses NW CERT crowd [Photo by CERTs] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Many schools encourage their students to get hands on experience in the field by offering non profit incubator services that grant non profit status and provide business consulting services and mentorship to help students turn their social business ideas into reality. When looking at the social entrepreneurship field in the US today, it is interesting to note that social enterprises tend to be concentrated in several distinct fields. These include education and training, retail, consulting, food service and the arts. In terms of social mission, the top areas include workforce development, community development, housing, education and health care. When looking at social entrepreneurs, it is clear that many of them are so dedicated to improving society that they often launch more than one type of social enterprise during their careers.

Many operate their social enterprises as a part of a larger group, while others choose a for profit structure, a non profit subsidiary structure, or a joint venture model. Social entrepreneurship organizations are all based on ethical principles, yet they take a variety of forms in order to best accomplish their unique missions. In defining what it means to operate as an ethical organization, concepts like virtue, justice, generosity and charity which benefit both the individual and their society come to mind.

Ethics are considered to be a central aspect of morality and can be considered a human duty based on respect for others. They are the guiding principle which will produce the greatest benefit to the largest number of people, which can also be defined as the “greater good.” Ethical investment has been growing in popularity as a concept since the 1970s, and ethical investors favor investment in socially responsible businesses above traditional, profit based models. That is because for profit businesses have no requirement for an element of social responsibility beyond legal compliance.