Social Entrepreneurship A Pathway For Social Change Business Essay

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Social entrepreneurship is an application of entrepreneurial initiatives in the social sphere. It witnesses the individuals with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems who are called as social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurship is at the early stage, short of conceptual clarity, theory and definition but with a high spirit of inspiration, motivation and passion. The challenge of academia is to set a trend to raise more awareness, support and participation. This paper examines the role of a new type of actor that has recently emerged as a social entrepreneur, who tackles social and ecological problems with entrepreneurial means. This paper provides evidences through illustrative cases of social entrepreneurs from India and tries to build clarity on the concept of social entrepreneurship and stimulate further inquiry. The article follows a step in this direction.


Social entrepreneurship is growing rapidly and getting much required attention from all sectors. Now media started focusing on social entrepreneurship and its impact. Social entrepreneurship is become an added content along with business entrepreneurship in the Universities and colleges curriculum to primarily sensitize the young generation with strategies of several prominent social entrepreneurs and social organizations. The reasons behind this increasing attention to social entrepreneurship are plenty. The most appealing reason is the inspiration that one gets by reading the stories of why and how they do and what they do and how they succeed against all the challenges at creating new values for the society and improving the lives of people dramatically through their services. Nichols, A., 2007 Social entrepreneurship entails innovations designed to explicitly improve societal well being, housed within entrepreneurial organizations which initiate, guide or contribute to change in society. Social entrepreneurship is emerged as an application of minds and activities embedded with social motive. The business entrepreneurship aims at wealth creation and economic development but the social entrepreneurship focuses on creation of social goodness and making the world better place for living in harmony.


A modest effort to contribute to the social entrepreneurship landscape, this paper aims to fulfill the following objectives:

To trace an academic perspectives on social entrepreneurship.

To provide case studies to understand the social entrepreneurship from practitioner perspective.

To suggest ways to propagate more of social entrepreneurship for creation of social values.


This paper is structured as follows. First, review of literature on concepts made available to gain conceptual clarity from academic perspective. Next, It discusses the history of social entrepreneurship in India and content analysis of identified cases is provided for understanding the social entrepreneurship from social entrepreneur perspective. Finally, the stories featured in this paper showcase the work of social entrepreneurs whose innovations are brining life changing tools and resources to people in developing the world. The cases featured in this paper are awardees of the social entrepreneur of the year of India 2012, 2011 and 2010 respectively from The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a sister organization of the World Economic Forum. The paper is concluded with how it is possible for someone to emerge as social entrepreneur with indomitable will to deliver an innovative idea coupled with a strategy for action that adds social value.

Historical background:

India has a rich tradition in upholding moral values in particular in terms of recognizing one's duty towards the others/ society. Chakraborty (1987), for instance, found that the orientation of 'giving' and the need to fulfill one's duty towards the society (as opposed to fulfilling individual needs) is deep-rooted in Indian social values and identity.

Similarly, McClelland (1975) found that Indians have a social achievement motivation, which is characterized by a desire for contributing to the collective well-being and achievement of super-ordinate goals. Historically too, these values have influenced India's rich history of social action, volunteerism and philanthropy. This fact is also manifested by the history of legal status of voluntary sector organizations in India. As long back as in the 19th century, the then government of India had enacted two separate acts - the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 - which were aimed to regulate and to provide legal status to not-for-profit entities which existed for the benefit of the society

Indian Independence Movement, led by our father of nation Mahatma Gandhi and others had the vision of social transformation and it was not just a struggle for political freedom. The whole movement was on creating an empowered society. It influenced not only a large number of industrialists of the time but also became a guiding principle of many large social ventures in the post-independence India.

Even after India gained independence in 1947, the idea of developing an empowered society was carried forward by many social thinkers, like Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte, Jai Prakash Narain and others influenced many youth to join the development/social sector. 

In the early years of independence too, the developmental policies of government of India envisaged and invited participation of non-governmental organizations and voluntary agencies to support the state-sponsored programs through its Central Social Welfare Board, National Community Development Program, National Extension Service, etc. The Government of India recognized the role and importance of the voluntary non-governmental organizations on family welfare, health and education therefore high level of priority and importance shown in the five year plans time to time. India has witnessed great contributions of social entrepreneurs in the recent past in taking the country to greater heights with significant social value creation. Recently, the discourse on social entrepreneurship has been fuelled by a number of high profile business entrepreneurs who have turned their attention to social causes.

Academic perspective of Social Entrepreneurship:

The following literary review on Social Entrepreneur and Social Entrepreneurship would give a conceptual clarity on this newly emerging field. For example, Drucker (1985) suggested that "the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity" regardless of whether that opportunity is commercial or social in nature. Often, however, the focus in "entrepreneurship" studies is on only "for profit" activities while the term "social entrepreneurship" has focused primarily on activities with social purposes. In recent years, the term "social entrepreneurship" has emerged to describe the application of entrepreneurial activities with an embedded social purpose.

Dees, J. G., 2001, Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector, by: Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value); Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission; Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand; Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

Thompson, 2002, People with the qualities and behaviors we associate with the business entrepreneur but who operate in the community and are more concerned with caring and helping than "making money'."

Austin, J., Stephenson, H., & Wei-Skillern, J., 2006, Social entrepreneurship is an innovative, social value-creating activity that can occur within or across the non-profit, businesses or government sectors.

Mair, J. & Marti, I., 2006 Social entrepreneurship: Innovative models of providing products and services that cater to basic needs (rights) that remain unsatisfied by political or economic institutions.

A social entrepreneur identifies and tries to solve social problems with innovative solutions on a large scale. As business entrepreneurs employ capital, organizing various factors of production by taking significant risk to create new ventures and transform whole industries, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society. They seize opportunities that others miss in order to improve, invent and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that solve the society's most pressing social problems. This initiative creates a social value rather just profit as the traditional business entrepreneurs seeks to achieve.

The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of a society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. Identifying and solving large scale social problems require a committed person with a vision and determination to persist in the face of daunting odds. Ultimately, social entrepreneurs are driven to produce measurable impact by opening up new pathways for the marginalized and disadvantaged, and unlocking society's full potential to effect social change.

From the above review it is inspiring to note that a social entrepreneur

Has innovative solution to the most pressing social issues;

Acts as the social change agent

Assures and sustains the social return on public service efforts

Dreams up and takes responsibility for innovative ideas for positive social change.

These words are not only inspiring but make us to understand in simplest form that social entrepreneurship is an attempt to fulfill a social need by starting a new initiative.

Inspiring new ways to solve problems:

Anshu Gupta of Goonj : Clothing for Development

Based in New Delhi, Goonj had demonstrated that 'cloth' can be a powerful development resource for India's last-mile communities. Goonj collects, sorts, repurposes and redistributes the excess and under-used resources of urban households to the rural and urban poor, where 'material poverty' is the deepest. Village and slum communities, in exchange of cloth and material, conduct self-organized local development and infrastructure building programs, leading to more than 500 infrastructure projects every year - such as the setting up of schools, concrete roads, bridges, wells , irrigation canals and toilets across 1500 villages.  Goonj's 'Cloth for Work' approach spurs behavior change on both the demand and supply sides: marginal communities begin to believe in their own capacity for catalyzing change and urban India learns to contribute (rather than dispense) material, based on what the poor need.

Every year, Goonj collects, reproduces and transports 1,000 tonnes of materials to ultra poor communities in 21 states through a country-wide network of 250 grassroots NGOs, 200 engaged business houses, 200 schools and 500+ volunteers. Its large-scale, 'last-mile' networks have made Goonj, the most efficient channel for large-scale disaster rehabilitation in the country. Through its non-monetary and non-market model, Goonj is thus creating 'cloth and material rich' communities where the meagre resources of poor families can be freed up for urgent expenditure (rather than for the purchase of cloth), village and slum infrastructure activities can be independent of finance/funding, and a virtuous cycle of dignity, empathy and interdependence is revved up between affluent and marginalized India.

Neelam Chhiber of Industree Crafts

Industree triples incomes of marginal artisans by moving them from being 'piece rate workers' to owners and entrepreneurs of grassroots community enterprises. It works both at the production and market ends of complex supply chains and has impacted more than 10,000 artisans living below the poverty line, by putting them in charge of their own enterprises. At the producer's end, Industree incubates community enterprises and common production entities that are jointly owned by artisans and local entrepreneurs (typically unemployed or under employed youth) . At the market end, Industree's multi-retail brand, Mother Earth, and aggressive sales force, set up with investment from the Future Group, offers the new producer- entrepreneur with a direct market platform to the Indian retail market, ensuring steady business of high volumes and smooth cash flows, year-on-year. For every 100 Indian rupees of revenue increase for Industree, producer incomes increase by 58 Indian rupees. As a result, community enterprises incubated by Industree, and owned by artisanal communities, break even within their first year of operation. In addition, 13% of the brand Value of Mother Earth has been locked into a MBT for artisans to purchase at par. As of August 2011, Industree has incubated 13 SHG-based community-owned enterprises and common production units in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and directly impacted more than 10,000 marginal producers and their families, of which 61% live below the poverty line, earning less than one US dollar a day. Industree also trains and sources products from 400 crafts-based collectives and SHGs in 10 Indian states, opening up the Mother Earth brand and market platform for them. In 5 years, Neelam Chibber and her team aim to directly impact more than 50,000 individual artisans by incubating their enterprises and facilitating their diversification into newer products, brands and markets, beyond those offered by Mother Earth.

Rajiv Khandelwal and Krishnavtar Sharma :Aajeevika Bureau

Co-founded by Rajiv Khandelwal and Krishnavtar Sharma in 2004, Aajeevika Bureau is headquartered in Udaipur, with offices in Ahmadabad, Jaipur and seven blocks of southern Rajasthan, where, every year, an estimated 800,000 rural workers migrate seasonally to Gujarat and Karnataka. All of Aajeevika Bureau's clients are unskilled and semi-skilled men and women with annual family incomes of less than INR 36,000. They are typically unviable for self help group or microfinance loans due to their migratory status and lack of assets. Aajeevika Bureau offers rural seasonal migrants photo identity and financial services, skills training, and partnerships with local governments and businesses, mostly at their destination points in urban markets. Over five years, more than 50,000 ultra-poor seasonal migrants have directly accessed the Bureau's services, registering 50-80% growth in their incomes as well as increased citizenship entitlements. Additionally, Aajeevika's model has been replicated by more than 30 civil society organizations in Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.