Social Entrepreneurship
Oftentimes, business and altruism seem to be at odds. Social entrepreneurship aims to dismantle that notion. This effort takes a number of shapes, but specifically, entrepreneurial initiatives addressing global health are on the rise. These types of businesses intend to implement solutions to health care problems faced by marginalized groups in ways that bureaucratic governments and health organizations cannot.

To backtrack, a social entrepreneur is someone who seeks to establish sustainable social change on a large-scale. They intend to promote social values while keeping fiscal responsibility in mind.

A key characteristic is innovation. A social entrepreneur should be able to adapt new or improved methods to fit the targeted populations in order to help the world. A social business is one that does not sacrifice responsibility for profit, but rather shoots for responsibility while turning a profit.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the rise in social entrepreneurship is an unmistakable trend in full force. At least 27 universities worldwide are currently offering courses or programs in that particular field of study. There are at least 25 annual competitions for social entrepreneurship, which reflects the rising popularity of this sect of the business world.

Unlike other businesses, social ventures do not rely on patented technologies or methods, but rather search to inject something new, namely perspective, into an already existing system. With healthcare, this means companies can circumvent the norm and introduce a unique lens through which healthcare is delivered.

Outside of the private sector, social entrepreneurship is changing the way the public sphere operates as well. Governments and NGO’s are learning from these ventures. From organizations in Bangladesh and Thailand to the U.K.’s own Oxfam, NGO’s are adopting entrepreneurial methods to maximize the effectiveness of their operations.

Governments are beginning to endorse social entrepreneurship as a valuable ally to local economies and social change.

Connor Borden

Photo: The Startup Couch

Global Innovation Fund
A new investment firm called the Global Innovation Fund recently announced its first round of grants and equity investments, reports Devex, a media platform for the global development community.

In the evaluation of potential investments, says Devex, the London-based Fund focuses primarily on the projected impact on the world’s poorest. It professes a strong adherence to evidence-based programming, valuing concrete plans and results over the implausible.

The inception of the Fund, launched in December 2014, marks an increasingly popular trend of private sector firms experimenting with new business models geared toward development and poverty alleviation in underprivileged places around the world.

USAID describes the Fund’s business strategy as “a venture capital-like approach to investing in a wide range of social innovations, drawing on the success of the industry to discover and support innovative ventures that have the potential to scale across the developing world.”

This strategy bears similarities to a number of new experimental business models, such as social entrepreneurship and impact investment, which are reshaping the way the private sector and development communities think about the developing world.

According to USAID, the Fund is currently seeking innovative ideas that will both spur development and turn a profit “from a wide range of potential partners, including social enterprises for-profit firms, researchers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and others.”

Collaboration, in other words, is the new name of the game.

The Fund’s website lists numerous examples of the work they have done and the kinds of ideas they are interested in.

PoaPower, for instance, is a social enterprise designed to supply low-income consumers in off-grid Kenya with clean and affordable electricity using a pay-as-you-go system. PoaPower’s £150,000 loan from the Global Innovation Fund will support the development of this unique model, with which it aims to serve 100 to 200 households in the Mount Kenya area.

The Fund seems to show a preference for ideas that have not only positive effects for economics or finance, but also health and safety. Large-scale health problems and poverty often correlate.

On its website, the Fund announced it provided a £160,000 grant to SafeBoda, a Ugandan company that aims to curb an epidemic of road accidents by instituting an Uber-like system of safe motorbike taxis and encouraging the use of helmets.

If successful, such a venture would not only save lives, but save money for the country. According to the Global Innovation Fund’s website, over “60 percent of the surgical budget at the main Kampala hospital is spent on treating motorbike crash injuries.”

Among the Fund’s investments in medical and food security programs is Valid Nutrition, which aims to distribute a paste based on locally grown ingredients that could reduce widespread acute malnutrition. The Newborn Foundation is another organization which aims to supply poor areas with low-cost pulse oximeters that can improve the detection of neonatal infection and reduce infant mortality by an estimated 25 to 30 percent.

All of these ideas are said to be cost-effective and scalable. Most importantly, the Global Innovation Fund affirms they will “improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people around the world.”

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Devex, Global Innovation Fund, USAID
Photo: Flickr

While Ireland has been in the headlines for its work towards financial recovery, it has also made a significant contribution to the growth of social entrepreneurship.

Ireland is currently home to 1,400 social enterprises, which employ about 25,000 people, with an expected increase of 65,000 jobs in the next few years. The number of social entrepreneurs in the country has continued to increase as well, with much of the rise attributed to Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI).

The organization SEI was established in 2005 to support the growth of social enterprises. SEI believes that when a social entrepreneur is working on an innovative project, they should get the funding needed for the project to grow. By supporting these new solutions, SEI hopes that these entrepreneurs will be able to help as many people as possible.

Since 2005, it has invested a total of €5.4 million in the projects of 169 social entrepreneurs. SEI supports each project for up to 2 years. The projects SEI has supported have directly affected over 250,000 people across the country and have also created 850 jobs.

In regard to Ireland’s opportunity to become a leader in social entrepreneurship, SEI’s Head of Engagement Darren Ryan said, “There is so much potential and a conducive environment for social innovation; why couldn’t Ireland be the global leader in the development of social entrepreneurship?”

In order to support these social entrepreneurs, SEI has its annual Awards Programme, which awards funding to 9 social entrepreneurs out of about 200 applications. A number of the projects are centered on reducing unemployment and rural isolation and improving mental health.

In addition to its Awards Programme, SEI also has a Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and its Elevator Programme. The Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp was created to help give support to rising social entrepreneurs.

The Elevator Programme entails 12 months of support and helps about 4 to 6 social entrepreneurs every year, in hopes of helping them to choose exactly what issue they want to focus on and figure out their solutions.

SEI expects that for any project it supports, the success rate will be between 50% and 75% or the failure rate will be between 25% and 50%, depending on when SEI chooses to invest.

In light of SEI’s predictions, Ryan said, “Anything higher than that and we will know we’re not taking enough risk. We want to ensure that we are always thinking big and looking for the ideas that have the potential to change Ireland.”

Along with the SEI, the global organization the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) recently expanded to Ireland. The SSE offers courses to mentor and support social entrepreneurs.

The school holds study sessions that include witnesses, experts, and social enterprise visits. The school also offers Action Learning Sets, in which people have small-group discussions to talk about their ideas.

Another important feature of the SSE is its mentoring services, where the school chooses mentors for all of its social entrepreneurs. The mentors offer the budding entrepreneurs advice and guidance as well as additional information and support to help them in their projects.

With growing resources for social entrepreneurs, Ireland is likely to be a strong leader in helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: Forbes, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, School for Social Entrepreneurs
Photo: Meath Chronicle

Forbes released its 2014 list of “30 Under 30 who are Changing the World,” which recognizes 30 notable young people in 15 different categories such as education, finance, science and Hollywood who are making a big impact in their chosen field.

Forbes recognized 30 inspiring people in the Social Entrepreneur category who are working in various fields such as girls’ education, rural agricultural development, mobile phone access in remote locations and the creation of online giving platforms.

Those honored were a part of a pool of nominated people who were then selected by philanthropist and former-eBay president Jeff Skoll, Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green — which funds social entrepreneurs — and Randall Lane, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes.

Some notable entries in Forbes’ Inspiring 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs include the following people.

Malala Yousafzai, 16, and Shiza Saheed, 24, joined forces in 2012 after Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban in retribution for her vocal stance on the importance of girls’ education. Saheed became Malala’s “chief strategist” for how Malala’s courage and activism could be utilized on a broad scale to create lasting global change.

They cofounded the Malala Fund, have raised $400,000 in grants from the World Bank and from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and have become a powerful symbol of the movement for girls’ education and female empowerment around the world.

Kennedy Odede, 29, grew up in the Kenyan slum of Kibera where he was called to action by the community’s desperate conditions, especially for women and girls. He founded the organization Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), which runs the tuition-free Kibera School for Girls, a health clinic, community center, clean water initiatives and revenue-generating activities for adults in the community.

SHOFCO’s overarching idea is that if community development can be visibly linked to gender equity initiatives, people will support the empowerment of girls.

Odede and SHOFCO have been recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Newman’s Own Foundation and will be featured in a forthcoming women’s rights documentary by New York Times contributor Nicholas Kristof.

Esra’a Al Shafei, 27, is the founder of Mideast Youth, which promotes social justice, political dissent, and open journalism in the Middle East and North Africa. Further, the organization runs online platforms for activist musicians ( and for young members of the LGBT community in the region.

Bryan Baum, 24, is the co-founder of Prizeo, which raffles various experiences with A-listers such as Justin Bieber, One Direction, Muhammad Ali and Alicia Keys in order to benefit non-profit organizations. Prizeo has to-date raised $3 million for charities, including St. Jude, Typhoon Haiyan Relief and Invisible children.

Talia Leman, 18, was only ten years old when she raised $10 million for Hurricane Katrina relief. Since then she has created RandomKid, which facilitates the efforts of young people who want to make an impact on the world.

Ten cents of every fundraised dollar on the site goes into a general pool for future efforts. The site has engaged projects from over 12 million young people from 20 countries.

– Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: Prizeo, Forbes, Shining Hope for Communities, RandomKid, Malala Fund
Photo: NWHM

It is no secret that social entrepreneurship is a growing industry. Especially in Western Europe and the United States, business-minded and socially-conscience individuals are merging their missions and making a difference. “The U.K. is certainly a great testing lab for social enterprises,” U.K. based start-up Ogunte’s Servane Mouazan told The Huffington Post. “But Europe in general is certainly very open to the concept and it’s a great movement to be part of.”

Mouazan began her social entrepreneurship network 12 years ago, and from the start noticed something unique: only women were joining.  Though this may come as a surprise to many in an industry that tends to be male-dominated, Mouazan recognized an innate connection.  “There’s this sort of natural tendency of spotting things that are not going well around us and willingness to transform them, to fix them,” Mouazan says, giving women a more pointed interest in her social enterprise.

Thus, Mouazan created Ogunte, a network organization designed to foster the skills of women and enable them to start their own social enterprises. According to the group’s website, Ogunte and its “Make a Wave” incubator program have already assisted more than 2,750 women, conducted research with 120 women social innovators globally and catalyzed 7 International Women’s Social Leadership Awards for impactful women social leaders.

Female social entrepreneurs are making strides outside of the U.K. as well.  The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report on social entrepreneurship analyzes and compares social venture activity across various world regions based on demographic factors such as age, education, work status, and gender. According to the report, the gender gap is not as high in the social realm as it is with the traditional commercial business route. In fact, women are surpassing men in social venture start-ups in Malaysia, Lebanon, Russia, Israel, Iceland, and Argentina.  The ratio is about even in the United States, China, Finland, and Latvia.

Why is it important to foster women’s social entrepreneurial skills? “By taking women out of the shadows, balancing gender equity, equipping them, and connecting them to influential stakeholders, we grow the pool of entrepreneurial opportunities,” says Ogunte’s mission statement. “We boost local and global welfare and we help them to have a positive social impact on their wider networks.” Cultivating women’s social innovation breaks traditional barriers and benefits individuals – both men and women – all around the globe.

Mallory Thayer

Sources: The Huffington Post, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
Photo: Vintage 3D

Who cares?: A Documentary About Social Entrepreneurship“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. For what the world needs are more people who’ve come alive.”

Those are the words spoken by one of the many social entrepreneurs interviewed in the Portuguese film “Quem se Importa?” directed by Mara Mourão. Translated to English, the film’s title means “Who cares?” which is the question answered throughout the film.

Shot in 20 different locations in a short span of just 40 days, the film highlights the lives of people all around who are changing the world through social entrepreneurship. Featured in the film is Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus along with a handful of Ashoka fellows. From a Canadian educator teaching empathy to children to a Brazilian priest who became a banker, the theme is clear: everyone can change the world.

A social entrepreneur interviewed puts it well when he says, “Before we can create our own world, we must imagine what kind of world we want to live in and then start doing that.”

The film was screened earlier this year at the 13th Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard and will be featured at the 27th annual Washington DC International Film Festival

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Ashoka