I’ve shared before that one of my passion areas is social entrepreneurship, but I don’t know if really defined it here before. So, what, exactly, is social entrepreneurship? And how are people using it to make a difference in their community and world?
Last night I attended an event on social entrepreneurship hosted by HUB Grand Rapids. I learned there are dozens of HUB locations around the world. This one is led by Bill Holsinger-Robinson and Steve Frazee.
The purpose of HUB Grand Rapids is to provide a place where entrepreneurs come together to innovate and collaborate. It is a membership club dedicated to building the local, sustainable economy in Grand Rapids and beyond.
The event featured a panel of distinguished guests who have been active in social entrepreneurship from both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, including:
- Nick Arnette – Twelve Cities Project
- Thania Panopoulos – Impact Engine
- Jamie Shea – Mission Throttle
- Elissa Hillary – Local First
- Luciano Hernandez – Tiger Studio Design
I’ve listed them in order of how they appeared in the photo (from left to right). I know it wasn’t a very flattering photo since some were drinking water at the time. And yeah, I got the head of the guy sitting in front of me, but that was intentional. He was the official photog for the event, and he was rockin it in those pink glasses.
What is Social Entrepreneurship?
The panel facilitator, Steve Frazee, asked each member of the panel to give a definition of social entrepreneurship or social enterprise. Here’s what they said:
- Social entrepreneurship is doing something good in the world and getting paid well to do it.
- Social entrepreneurship is helping other people to do well and do good in life.
- Social entrepreneurship is giving back to the community, and pushing humanity forward.
- Social entrepreneurship is a process to build or transform an organization to solve an issue or problem.
- A social enterprise uses a business element to solve a key social problem.
- Social enterprises are passion-driven or businesses.
- A social enterprise is a business that views social impact as one of its main values or purposes for existing.
Isn’t Every Business a Social Enterprise?
One of the questions that was asked of the panel is this: Doesn’t every business have a social enterprise aspect to it? The answer is yes and no.
At it most basic level, every business succeeds by creating something of value that other people want. In other words, businesses make money by serving others well. And many businesses believe in social responsibility – in giving back to the community to help make their community a better place. But their ultimate purpose of being in business is to make money and create value for their owner(s).
A social enterprise is a business that has as its ultimate purpose a social problem it wants to solve or a difference it wants to make in the world, in addition to making a profit.
And its key metric, or measurement of success, isn’t just the value it creates for its owners but the difference it makes in solving the problems it cares about.
I believe many Christian-owned or founded businesses have been at the forefront of social responsibility for years (like Herman Miller, which is a sponsor of HUB Grand Rapids and other HUB locations around the world).
And our West Michigan community, including Grand Rapids, seems to be a hot-bed of social enterprise innovation right now. In fact, one of the panelists, Nick Arnette, said Grand Rapids is far ahead of other cities our size when it comes to social enterprise collaboration and innovation.
Social Entrepreneurship is Often Called Business as Mission in Christian Circles
I didn’t think to ask this last night at the event, but I would have enjoyed hearing the panelists talk about the role that faith plays in leading people to launch social enterprises.
There’s a growing movement among Christians toward social enterprise, but it sometimes goes by other names like:
- Business as Mission
- Business as Ministry
- Kingdom Entrepreneurship
I’m more motivated than ever to launch a business that is based on the social enterprise or business as mission model.
Right now, one aspect of it seems to be geared toward leading other people to greater levels of success in their personal and work lives and helping them fulfill their God-given calling, passions and dreams…so they can make the difference God wants them to make in the world.
So I guess my social enterprise may be to help other people launch theirs.
What about you? Are you interested in social entrepreneurship or business as mission? What would you like to do?
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