Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship That Successful Organizations Share

Desert Leader [Photo by Hamed Saber] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Successful social enterprises share certain characteristics of social entrepreneurship in common. Chief among these is the willingness to self-correct. It’s estimated that 90% of successful ventures start out with the wrong business plan, and the ones that succeed must therefore alter course at some point. It takes a combination of humility and courage to admit when something isn’t working and question your assumptions.

Another important characteristic is the willingness to share credit. A good example of this is the Ashoka Fellow of the Year David Kuria of Kenya. He’s the founder of IkoToilet, which built hygenic and affordable toilets for 1 million slumdwellers in Kibera, a district of Nairobi. When he realized that government regulations would make it difficult to expand, he put the City Council of Nairobi’s logo on all Ikotoilets to gain their support.

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Defining Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship

Other defining characteristics of social entrepreneurship include the ability to shrug off the constraints of ideology in order to identify and apply practical solutions to social problems. This requires a combination of innovation, resourcefulness and opportunity. Innovation is necessary for finding new products, services and approaches to social problems, but that’s just the first step.

To apply these ideas successfully requires focus on social value creation and a willingness to share the innovations and insights for others to replicate. Often social entrepreneurs will have to take a leap of faith in pursuing their ideas before they are able to secure full funding. To deal with the high level of risk involved, they must possess an unwavering belief in their innate capacity to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development, and exhibit a dogged determination that pushes them to take the necessary risks.

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship Change Agents

Kathmandu , Nepal,Himalayas,Everest [Photo by ilkerender] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

It’s worth noting that many of the characteristics of social entrepreneurship are shared by traditional business startups as well. Some characteristics that differ include an explicitly formulated mission to create and sustain social value and to benefit communities. This involves the pursuit of new opportunities and hidden resources to serve that mission, and a quest for sustainable models based on a well-elaborated feasibility study.

Success requires ongoing engagement in innovation, adaptation and learning. In social enterprises, decision-making power is not based on capital ownership, but rather the participatory and collaborative nature of these organizations involve various stakeholders. Due to this fact, there is often a limited distribution of profit and a minimum amount of paid work associated with these enterprises. However, they empower people in other ways by putting change opportunities in the hands of every individual.