4 Articles: Reflection / Response

The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur  

by David Borenstein

This article reflects upon a widespread shift that has been happening gradually over the past decade. Social structures are very different from what they were several decades ago, and along with innovations and political shifts, a grand opportunity has arisen for the everyday person to make creative and effective social change when faced with urgent problems. Rather than political and financial leaders heading up change, the everyday person is now more and more frequently using creative means to solve problems by bringing people together in the name of a common and worthy goal. I agree wholeheartedly with the message of this article. It encapsulates beautifully a movement that has been birthed by a world with higher speed information sharing, larger population than ever, and bigger, more complex social environmental problems than ever before. As the article says, “…how do we find, elicit, nurture, and harness the talents of millions of potential change-makers for the greatest good?” There is power in numbers, and many people coming together to solve a problem that is truly important, and for which they feel passion, is likely to effect change more powerfully than one politician making a choice in relative isolation. We need to encourage and support change makers at every level of society. Sometimes, the person who was elected, or who has the most money, doesn’t have the perspective and drive needed to truly address important social problems… and sometimes, a mother of two living on a meager salary might have exactly what it takes.

Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition

by Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg

Social entrepreneurship is closely akin to other practices – namely, entrepreneurship, social service, and social activism. This article argues that the definition and role of social entrepreneurship in particular should not be diluted, so that it can be taken seriously and so that it stands strong on its own, as a unique category of practice and action. I agree that it would muddy the waters to blur the boundaries of what the term means, and that it is most useful to maintain a clear delineation between social entrepreneurship and other practices. As the article states, entrepreneurship is a noun that is modified by the descriptor, “social”. If social entrepreneurship is going to be talked about, if it is going to happen, and if it is going to lead to major changes in our society and the way humanity functions – which is already the case – then it is certainly, in my opinion, highly preferable that it be maintained as a unique and strong term, representing a unique and strong way of addressing pressing social issues.

Reshaping Social Entrepreneurship

by Paul Light

The message of this article, in a nutshell, is that social entrepreneurship has been too narrowly defined, and that this narrow definition is limiting potential in the field. Rather than including a variety of types of manifestation, the current definition, according to the author, has focused on the type of manifestation that involves one charismatic individual with a revolutionary idea that yields significant positive social change. The author argues that support, training, and recognition for not only these individuals, but for groups and organizations, is preferred. I have to agree. My previous understanding of social entrepreneurship was not limited to the idea of one exceptional person who makes change, but included an exceptional group, going through an exceptional and innovative process, to make change. I see no use in narrowly defining what social entrepreneurship is. In my opinion, it is the process, the potential, the intention, and the struggle toward an honorable outcome that should be focused upon. Often, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. It is a tendency of our culture to focus on individual stars, but when it comes to making revolutionary change, it happens just as often within a group or organizations, as it does via one individual with an incredible idea. I also echo what this article says about the idea versus its success or failure. A good idea may fail several times before it takes off – and cutting out the idea and the origin of that idea because the initial result was not great success – is unfortunate. We should value the process and the ideas, catalogue them, honor them, and build upon all we have to make positive change, and to honor those who are a part of that process, in whatever form.

The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”

by J. Gregory Dees

This article explores the very basic definition of entrepreneurship, then explores various theories from various sources regarding proposed definitions for social entrepreneurship in particular. After a discussion of important delineations between business and social entrepreneurship, among other things, a complex definition is offered, which is then analyzed part-by-part. Bold action, bravery, and personal drive are highlighted as key qualities possessed by a social entrepreneur. Motivation connection to creating permanent or lasting social change is also key, along with pushing boundaries both in relation to financial practices and potential failures / successes. I feel the information provided here is very high quality, gives a good foundation and offers some great options for definitions from different sources. I resonate with the definition offered. I feel that the bravado and the forging forward despite financial limitations may be slightly overdone or overemphasized, but perhaps not. It does take a brave and persistent soul to make real change happen. This article focuses on the idea of an individual social entrepreneur for the most part, and does not go into the idea of social entrepreneurship within a larger framework, or that may occur as a result of group thinking. But this was written in 1998, and social entrepreneurship and the discussion around its definition and its boundaries has evolved quite a bit since then.


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