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Here is Why Social Entrepreneurs are Silent Revolutionaries Profit generation is not the sole objective of Social entrepreneurs, let's explore the subject a little more

By Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan

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Often, large-scale social problems such as poverty, energy, waste, water, education, health and jobs are the responsibility of the State. However, these problems are complex in nature and need the innovativeness and agility that an enterprise can bring to the table for it to be solved. State Institutions lack typical characteristics that enterprises have – greater focus on outcomes and ability to explore various models to solve complex problems. That is where social entrepreneurs come in. A social enterprise is a business first but has an equal interest in the social impact of their businesses as opposed to only generating revenues and profits or to only solving a social problem. However, this does not mean that a social enterprise is a not-for-profit. The social entrepreneur's business model is sustained through profit generation, like any other business. The difference is that profit generation is not the sole objective of these businesses, it's the overall social impact created by the products and services of the businesses.

Social entrepreneurs and innovation

Today, Asia is home to a large number of social entrepreneurs. These social enterprises often have innovative solutions to the age-old social problems, using new technology or engaging the community in innovative and exciting new ways. Because of this, social entrepreneurs are often seen to be silent revolutionaries- the harbingers of change. Very often their objective is to change people i.e. customers behaviour encouraging increased societal participation, especially from the hitherto economically marginalized communities. Let's take an example - Ensuring employment in villages through eco-tourism, making handlooms and handicrafts popular. The main objective of the enterprises in this sector is to generate jobs locally and stem migration while preserving local heritage. The way to do this is to draw the average tourist to places which they would hitherto not considered accessible or fashionable. For this the enterprise would need to compete with hotels and the attractions that popular tourist destinations provide. The enterprise will fail if it does not adhere to the fundamental principles of business – average occupancy, regular footfalls and focus on operating margins.

Difference between a traditional and social enterprise

It has been observed that social enterprises are also inherently different from other traditional business in the ways in which they attract talent. While the founders often have a highly ethical and moral worldview, this genre of enterprises are also seen as very practical and down to earth. Idealism is often ineffective when dealing with social issues that need eye for detail and process innovation. In addition to this, employees of such social enterprises must also be exceedingly goal oriented and must possess clear metrics in order to execute the objectives and goals defined by the social enterprises. So they often attract youth or mid-career seasoned professionals looking to create a comfortable and stable career.

Is it a growing trend

The last question that needs to be addressed is – are the number of social entrepreneurs growing in the world? In my opinion, in order for social entrepreneurship to truly grow, investors and professionals require to see a lot more easily replicable models that can be implemented across various geographies and industries. If there are larger numbers of replicable models, more people would be motivated to become social entrepreneurs themselves, leading to large-scale, effective solutions against the social problems that have been plaguing our collective human society for centuries now.

I would like to end by cautioning that all problems cannot be solved by social enterprises. Different types Capital – philanthropic and government expenditure are the right forms of capitals for many social problems. At the same time, we also need to recognize that different types of institutions too need to coexist to solve social problems. Social enterprises and social entrepreneurs are also a group that need to be counted !!

Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan

Co-Founder & CEO, LabourNet Services India Pvt Ltd.

LabourNet is a Social Enterprise that enables livelihoods by focusing on ‘Real income Increase’ for informal sector workers. We provide ‘Vocational Education & Training Services’ and ‘Decent Work’ opportunities to the above segment. LabourNet is a platform which facilitates financial inclusion and social security measures to workers.

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