Social entrepreneurship is perhaps best defined as “a process by which citizens build or transform institutions to advance solutions to social problems, such as poverty, illness, illiteracy, environmental destruction, human rights abuses, and corruption, in order to make life better for many.” (Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know®)
“While the extraordinary industrial and technological innovations of recent decades have led to many breakthroughs, they have also left us to confront an uncertain future. With real threats of environmental and economic collapse, terrible diseases, over-population, war, terrorism and menacing new forms of weaponry, we have much to overcome. Efforts by our governments and institutions have proven insufficient to reverse these and other destructive trends. Our best hope for the future of humanity lies in the power and effectiveness of socially motivated, highly empowered individuals who fight for changes in the way we live, think and behave.”
Alex Nicholls – Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change
Perhaps the saving grace for humanity is that just when all the odds seem overwhelming, and life’s challenges are at their greatest, we see the emergence of extraordinary people. With fresh ideas and novel measures, they step up to face these problems and find solutions to them. These are the social entrepreneurs. The practical dreamers who use all their skills, talents and vision to create a world that is a better place for everyone. These are the heroes who use every possible tool at their disposal to achieve success – not a success measured by financial returns alone, but by the amount of impact and demonstrable improvements they bring to peoples’ lives.
Southern African Context
The concept of social entrepreneurship in southern Africa addresses many of the financial and funding challenges that the civil society sector faces. The introduction of a profit motive to the way non-profits are traditionally run opens an entire spectrum of opportunities for organisations. This additionally leads to a predictable, unrestricted income. These social enterprises are generating their own income, are far less reliant on donor funding, and, most interestingly, are finding out that the introduction of social entrepreneurship increases the focus on the organisations’ mission.
Non-profit organisations that have introduced these business principles are finding that the acquisition of profit and customers has enabled them to do so much more than just create a dependable income, since having customers has also induced an increased accountability and transparency, along with more trust and greater credibility. Importantly, the greatest beneficiary is the overall impact that these organisations deliver to the community.
Balancing the values and trust of social organisations with the efficiencies and profit motive of business by demystifying the necessary concepts is what the EASI® system does. Blending the lessons from business with the diversity and complexity of social needs leads to boundless opportunities for change, and as Bernard Shaw explained: “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”