How Do I Become a Social Entrepreneur?

H. Terry

An entrepreneur is an innovator who develops and leads new ventures. A social entrepreneur does this with an aim to improve society. To become a social entrepreneur, one must envision, develop and lead a social venture.

A social entrepreneur may start up an innovative nonprofit group that helps address community needs.
A social entrepreneur may start up an innovative nonprofit group that helps address community needs.

Entrepreneurs seek out new ways to foster innovations and improvements. The negative results of social problems are often painfully clear, but it can be difficult to imagine viable solutions. When a problem is systemic, it can be especially hard to identify its source. One must be a visionary to become a social entrepreneur, capable of seeing past what is and of showing others what could be.

Social entrepreneurs usually focus on a specific social problem.
Social entrepreneurs usually focus on a specific social problem.

Having a vision is only the first step. To become a social entrepreneur, action must be taken to secure resources and to build upon them. While successful business entrepreneurship means gaining customers, successful social entrepreneurship usually implies helping people and gaining a following of other helpers. For all kinds of entrepreneurship, financial backing is almost always a requirement.

When a social change is suggested, it is typical that not everyone will support it. A social entrepreneur might find his or her ideas receive anything from widespread support to general condemnation from the society in which he or she wants to make a difference. To overcome naysayers, a social entrepreneur must demonstrate a dedicated belief in the cause as well as strong leadership skills. In addition to fundraising through private donations, public or corporate funds set aside for certain causes may be available in some places. Certain governments and companies provide a great deal of support for a person who wants to become a social entrepreneur, while others provide little or none.

One can become a social entrepreneur in a variety of contexts. A social entrepreneur may operate within an existing organization or establish a completely new one. He or she might also act on a local grassroots level or internationally. Social entrepreneurs commonly work within the not-for-profit sector. This does not mean it is impossible to make money while helping others through social entrepreneurialism, but usually a person wants to become a social entrepreneur for more altruistic reasons than profit-making.

Social entrepreneurs can even be active within companies that are set up mainly for the sake of profit. Corporate social entrepreneurialism is when an employee sets out to improve or expand a company's socially-responsible activities. These activities might benefit people within or outside of the company.

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