What do we mean by social entrepreneurs?
Social entrepreneurship is a global phenomenon. Although there is no agreed official definition (1), the concept is recognised throughout the world and used by a growing number of actors in the development sector. Social entrepreneurship is the subject of numerous research projects and leading universities have programme courses dedicated to it.
For US journalist David Bornstein, a specialist in the field of social innovation (2), social entrepreneurs are individuals who solve wide-ranging social problems. The social entrepreneur is someone who takes control, changes behaviour and attitudes while playing the role of catalyst for social transformation (3).
Social entrepreneurs are determined people with a clear vision of the problems they tackle. They are “creative spirits” who identify a social problem, plan a solution and take decisive action to implement their vision. In the majority of cases, they aim to adopt business and management practices to social objectives.
For the Fondation Marie et Alain Philippson, social entrepreneurs primarily want to ‘make things happen’ -in their village, in their region, for their country. They are enthusiastic individuals, experienced and determined to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of their countrymen. Through innovative thinking, ambition, and through the organization they have established, the social entrepreneurs supported by the Foundation strive to unlock the potential of local women and children by giving them the knowledge and the means to be able to make choices and to become fully active members of their communities managing their own local environment and its finances, in short, to improve their lives.
Whether they are a teacher, a researcher or an agriculturist, by their clear vision and their ability to act, as well as to take risks, each social entrepreneur supported by the Foundation contributes to real social change in West and Central Africa.
Some useful websites and links to learn more about social entrepreneurship worldwide:
Social Entrepreneurship Handbook
Social Entrepreneurship Typology
(1) For more information on this subject, see: Martin & Osberg, Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2007.
(2) David Bornstein, How to change the World. Social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas, Editions La Découverte, Paris, 2005.
(3) The 2006 Peace Nobel-Prize Winner, Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, is a classic example of a social entrepreneur.