Sunday, April 15, 2007

Conceptualising Social Entrepreneurship

Ever since, I have got involved with this field (which is quite recent in life), I had always felt that the understanding and conceptualisation of Social Entrepreneurship is skewed by history.... or rather by its recognition as a line of human endeavour in the history.

Business Entrepreneurship was discovered and conceptualised earlier, and so it has come to mean The Entrepreneurship... and since detection of Social Entrepreneurship is more recent, somehow it is seen/conceptualised as on the fringe of the business entrepreneurship...

Last month, during the meeting of the Advisory Council of University Network at the Skoll Forum for SE, I was able of articulate my understanding of where does Social Entrepreneurship fit into the "entrepreneurial space"...

Here is what I understand:

  • Entrepreneurship – whether social or business – is all about “creating wealth” in/for society

  • Wealth in a society would include 3 components:
    - Economic Capital
    - Social/ Community Capital, and
    - Environmental Capital

  • Traditionally, Business Entrepreneurs focus only on creating “economic/financial wealth” – even though their product/services may have impact (+ve or –ve) on the Social/Environmental Capital (This is also because in traditional economic terms/assumptions, society/environment are seen either as a cost factor in production... or, worse, the impact on them is dismissed as "externalities")

  • However, if one accepts that "wealth" is not just money/profits, but also the social/environmental capital (i.e business is part of society, and not the other way round), then there is a need to look at entrepreneurship from a different perspective.

  • In my understanding, there are two dimensions of "wealth creation":
    - (1) Nature of wealth that is being created by the entrepreneur, and
    - (2) who is the beneficiary of that wealth.
    see the figure below:

  • Business entrepreneurship primarily - and by choice - creates wealth that is economic/financial in nature, and the primary beneficiary of the the wealth is the entrepreneur and his/her business.

  • That is, the business entrepreneurship (or The Entrepreneurship) is only a small sub-set of the entire entrepreneurial space.

  • I hope, this will help me - or someone else - to build a typology of the variety of social entrepreneurshial ventures in the overall "entrepreneurship space"... I have tried to put a few in the diagram below:
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