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Social Entrepreneurs

A social entrepreneur is one who recognises a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to create, organize and manage a social venture. Unlike business entrepreneurs who typically expect an increase in wealth, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social, environmental and financial capital.  They generally concentrate on non-profit based organizations. Social entrepreneurs promote ideas taken up by mainstream public services in welfare, schools and health care. Many women entrepreneurs are taking interest in social objectives.

With their innovative ideas, ambition, persistence and persuasion social entrepreneurs have the ability to tackle major social issues for change in a larger perspective. Their ideas involve them to the point of possession and commit a lifetime to the betterment of society. Their ideas are morally ethical which gains them immense support in implementing it. By seizing opportunities they invent approaches to improve systems and implements with them with a far wider reach. Their clear vision and primacy of their mission combine hard headedness with idealism. Social entrepreneurship in UK has a strong existence since the days of Florence Nightingale, Robert Owen and Michael Young. The innovations in law courts, schools, democracy and taxation are also examples of social entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurs start their own enterprise by using structures and processes that help them achieve their goal. They may start charitable institutions, take initiatives in the public sector and initiate businesses for profit that will help them sustain the social enterprise.

Social entrepreneurship is growing in relevance, fostered by several trends.

  • The inability of the political system to change leading to frustration and disillusionment
  • More people seeking the meaning of life
  • Networked society
  • Charities run in an organized and professional manner
  • Growth of corporate social responsibility
  • A wide range of realistic options to focus upon

Models Of Social Entrepreneurship

The US Social entrepreneurship focus on the heroic deeds of an individual seeking a nation wide and top-down impact. The UK/European Social entrepreneurship model differs in the following aspects:

  • The measurement of success is not by the impact they create. Social entrepreneurs who operate and meet the needs of the local community are also termed successful
  • Emphasis is laid on how change is achieved, the way social entrepreneurs engage and mobilize communities, teams and movements
  • Supports both approaches of bottom-up and top-down

Social Entrepreneurship In The UK

Social entrepreneurship gained prominence in UK in the last three decades. With Charles Leadbeater writing the influential pamphlet ‘ The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur’, Michael Young starting ‘School for Social Enterprises’ and the establishment of ‘ Community Action Network’ by Adele Blake borough and Andrew Mawson, social entrepreneurship became legitimised and promoted in UK.

Funding organizations, philanthropists and pivotal support agencies have sustained the growth of social entrepreneurship. Society driven individuals initiate processes that promote social change. They create social cohesion by raising capital, creating jobs, enhancing skills and inspiring others for a global change. Focus on academic courses; research programmes and events help create more social entrepreneurs amongst our midst. The most noteworthy forum is the Skoll Centre for Social entrepreneurship.

Enlightened physical regeneration, capital and customized support will help sustain the growth of social entrepreneurship. This will minimize the unethical trends of ethical consumerism, self-employment and disillusionment at work or politics. Quality initiatives for enhancing the product/skill, communication skills and transparency in operating will help minimize sector boundaries and support emerging partnerships.

Calculation of social return on investment and social auditing will help measure and evaluate the degree of success a social entrepreneur has achieved. Identifying social entrepreneurs and investing in them will reap both social and financial return on investment. This will help appraise and upgrade social entrepreneurship in UK. Some of the support agencies are Ashoka UK, SENscot, Skoll Centre for social Entrepreneurship, UnLtd, Changemakers and School for Social Entrepreneurs

Funding And Grants For Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs can start a social enterprise, seek investors and work for the benefit of the society. Some popular social enterprises in UK include The Big Issue Magazine and The Eden Project in Cornwall. It may be difficult for the social entrepreneur to finalize his social objective. A detailed market research to understand the market and its revenue will enable the social entrepreneur to make a comprehensive business plan for raising grant funds. Social entrepreneurs realize the following advantages by initiating a social venture for profits:

  • Raising funds can be an easier task relatively
  • It is easier to sustain a social venture as the needs are emotional and the market relatively open
  • Grant agreements or program officers do not ask for regular reports informing the status of the enterprise. Standard commercial propositions attract investors and venture capitalists
  • Provide employment for local people who share the same passion
  • Support the disabled, minority ethnic groups, women  

The various sources that social entrepreneurs can apply for funds include

  • National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts (NESTA) improve the entrepreneurs to innovate and find solutions to social problems. The Lab is a set of projects to improve public services by funding and supporting social entrepreneurs.
  • 7 major not-for-profit organizations formed UnLtd for aiding social entrepreneurs to initiate community projects across UK. Their network enables social entrepreneurs to share skills, resources and knowledge. They offer consultancy services for betterment of the business aspects of the social enterprise. They have provided £20 million to support more than 7000 social entrepreneurs from the year 2002.
  • Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund is a charitable trust initiated by a fund management company called Bridges Ventures. They utilize their commercial experience to achieve social and environmental goals and maximizing returns for their investors. Social Entrepreneurs Fund has a capital of £4 million to support social entrepreneurs.
  • Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) offer investment to operate in disadvantaged communities.
  • Adventure Capital Fund (ACF) offers funds to ambitious social enterprises and extends support from their mentors.
  • Futurebuilders England support social enterprises in public sectors.
  • Banks, commercial bodies, venture capitalists like Venture Giant offer heavy investments to social entrepreneurs. Visit the government’s Office of The Third Sector, Cabinet Office for further advice on applying for grants from institutions.   
  • Students applying for a course at School for Social Entrepreneurs can apply for grants and receive a waiver for their fees.  
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