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3 Perspectives on Social Entrepreneurship

Photo: Courtesy of Robert Caruso

A growing number of American entrepreneurs see business as a tool that can be used to address the world’s greatest social and environmental challenges. They are developing new business models that solve pressing issues related to poverty, climate change, inequality and other ills negatively impacting people and planet. These skilled innovators are driven by something greater than profit.

But what does the term “social entrepreneurship” mean exactly? Here’s how three leaders define the concept:

1. Afzal Habib, co-founder of Kidogo

Azfal Habib co-founded a social enterprise that offers access to high-quality childcare and education to families living in poverty. He says social entrepreneurship “bridges the gap between the traditional charitable hand-out model and the staunch for-profit model. [We] look at the communities we serve as demanding customers, not just passive beneficiaries, meaning that we have to ensure we are consistently providing quality services, satisfying customer needs, and innovating on our model to ensure we are the best option for their limited resources.”

2. Corinne Clinch, co-founder and CEO of Rorus, Inc.

Corinne Clinch chairs a venture that designs innovative water filters that gives people in the developing world much-needed access to clean drinking water. She defines social entrepreneurship as “finding creative ways to align profit incentives or an individual’s incentives with social causes. This way, we can use the most powerful, scalable practices in capitalism for good.”

3. Ryan Ross, program director of the Halcyon Incubator

Ryan Ross is the director behind an incubator that provides training and support to early-stage social entrepreneurs to help them build scalable and sustainable ventures. When asked to define social entrepreneurship, he replied, “I’ve always said that the world doesn’t need another dating app. We need the innovators in our world to focus on the issues that matter, solving the pressing problems of today to create a better tomorrow. … Uniting social impact with the established market principles at work in our society [is] a powerful combination.”

Social entrepreneurship clearly takes many forms. While each venture tries to solve a specific problem with solutions such as renewable energy, microloans, affordable housing, improved health care or job training in the United States and beyond, the innovators who lead them all belong to the same powerful movement that is shaping our future.

Robert Caruso, Chairman and Managing Partner, SOCAP, [email protected]

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