Social Entrepreneurship

What is it? Why it matters. How to start.

So, what is social entrepreneurship? Well, there’s a lot of definitions out there but a lot of them a very long, clumsy and vague. So I decided to create a simple definition that is simple and succinct.
A social enterprise is an organization that focuses on having a positive social impact and prioritizes its impact over its profits.
For example, a typical fortune 500 company gives a fraction of 1% of its profits to charity. They’re not doing this because they think it’s the right thing to do or because they care about the charity. They do it to appear to be good corporate citizens with the expectation that it will improve their brand and result in more revenue.
So, for these corporations, this is just a marketing strategy designed to increase profits.
A social enterprise is different because the calculation is reversed.
The primary objective of a social enterprise is to maximize its impact and it will generate profits if generating profits helps the organization to maximize its impact. And, in many cases, it is important to generate profits in order to maximize your impact. Now, this obviously brings up a list of issues that need a more detailed discussion and I’ll get into that in another video down the road. For now, let’s get clear about the fact that a genuine social enterprise will prioritize its impact over its profits.
So, what is this blog / podcast / YouTube channel about?
It’s about the challenges we have to face as the world rapidly changes and evolves into something that is very different than it used to be.
We’ll discuss new technologies and new ways of thinking that will challenge our existing way of life. Challenges that the average person needs to be aware of, governments need to prepare for, journalists need to follow and, of course, challenges that social entrepreneurs need to address.
You’re probably thinking, why should I listen to you. Well, I’m going to answer that question but there are a few other things that need to be said.
I’ve been talking about social entrepreneurship for a long time.
All the way back in 2000 I created an event called World Reconciliation Day (WRD). I spent the day with Nelson Mandela as we moved from one event to another and it ended in a concert that was held in a football stadium. We received dedicated tributes from Samuel Jackson, Morgan Freeman, George Lucas and a long list of others. Two former prime ministers showed up and the company that I started with nothing had grown big enough to donate $1M to Nelson Mandela’s charity.
All sounds pretty good, right?
But, I was criticized by the media for spending the company’s money on non-core operations. Or, to put it another way, I was accused of focusing too much on the social and not enough on the profit.
Before this event, I created one of the world’s first online education businesses. It was effectively the K-12 curriculum presented in a digital, interactive format. The idea was to democratize education – make it available to everyone regardless of their background. We started promoting it with TV ads but the return on investment was low. The WRD event provided an opportunity to promote the online education business in a different way. We promoted the event heavily to schools, students and parents. The event cost $5M and generated $2M of revenue so we made a $3 million loss on the event. But we generated $15M of free advertising for the online education business and the value-added to the brand was literally priceless. This is a much better financial result than we would achieve if we just spent money on advertising. In the end, the commercial and social objectives were both achieved concurrently.
Your social entrepreneurship journey may or may not involve setting up concerts in football stadiums and donating large sums of money to the nonprofit of an iconic human rights leader but there’s a lesson to be learned here and that lesson is that no good deed goes unpunished.
This is why it’s critical for social entrepreneurs to pursue projects that they’re passionate about.
If you want to get into more detail about why passion matters you can watch my TEDx talk about how to find your passion. It has more than a million views and you’ll find a link to it in the description. This is the summary, your passion is not some useless hobby that you use to pass the time. If you look at the actual definition of passion you’ll discover that the things you’re passionate about are the things you feel strongly about. If you genuinely feel strongly about the project that you’re pursuing as a social entrepreneur you won’t care about criticism and you won’t give up when things inevitably get challenging.
But, this is a channel about social entrepreneurship, so passion alone isn’t enough. I created a framework called the Theory of Pii. Pii stands for passion, income, and impact and it should be ground zero for anyone that wants to be a social entrepreneur. The simple summary of the theory is this, if the thing you’re passionate about and the thing you do to earn an income is the same and it also has a positive impact, then you’re much more likely to succeed, and more generally, you’re living in the sweet spot of life. The point here is that your social entrepreneurship project needs to meet all three criteria. Meeting one or two of the criteria isn’t good enough. I’m going to make a more detailed video about the Theory of Pii in a few days. If you want to be alerted when I release new videos, click the subscribe button then click the bell icon. If you don’t click the bell icon you won’t get an alert.
As for being criticized for pursuing social entrepreneurship back in 2000, the good news is that the world has changed and social entrepreneurship is more accepted now. But I’ve noticed something that really annoys me. Back when I started doing this I was the odd one out. I was swimming against the tide and it was difficult. It was something you only did if you felt strongly about it. Now everyone wants to be a social entrepreneur but I’m not convinced that everyone is genuine.
There’s a lot of older people that are very late to this party and there’s a lot of young people going to the party just because everyone else is at the party. If we want to maintain the integrity of social entrepreneurship, we have to call these people out. I’ll address this issue in more detail in another video down the road.
I created ‘I Imagine’ to help social entrepreneurs get started, grow and maximize their impact.
It includes an idea management platform that allows people to crowdsource solutions to the world’s biggest or smallest problems. I believe it’s the most advanced platform in the world for developing and managing ideas within a community. The collaboration platform allows social entrepreneurs to connect with each other and grow their business by cross-promoting their products, services and causes to each others’ followers. In most cases, this can be done for free. For people that want to get started on a small scale in their spare time then grow into something much bigger down the road, I’ve also created a social entrepreneurship course. Finally, ‘I Imagine’ is also a fully-featured social network that you can use to connect with other social entrepreneurs. Most of the apps and tools on the platform are free so go ahead and create an account and use it. I’ve included a link in the description.
The other important point to make about ‘I Imagine’ is that I’m literally doing what you’re doing. I’m building a social enterprise just like you. I’m very happy with some parts of my business but I’m not happy with others – just like you. I will have successes and failures along the way – just like you.
Over the years, I’ve raised more than $100M for my businesses – businesses where I was the founder and CEO. Not just an adviser or a consultant or a director or an early employee or whatever. Why does that matter? The reality is that the only people that know what it’s like to have an idea, make a decision to create it, find the courage to let the world see it then navigate the highs and lows that follow – are social entrepreneurs themselves. Not the financial and legal advisers, not somebody you know that works in a big corporation, not your friends and not your mother. My point is that you need to connect with people that are on the same journey.
Social entrepreneurship involves money but it’s not about money. It’s about impact and that’s why social entrepreneurship is a movement. Every movement needs a community and ‘I Imagine’ is that community.
Everything I’ve said up to this point leads to one thing that you already know – the future of humanity will be heavily influenced by the success or failure of social entrepreneurs like you and me. One way to increase the likelihood of success is for us to work together and the ‘I Imagine’ platform makes this possible. So, follow this channel, create your free account on ‘I Imagine’ and let’s maximize our impact together.
So, with all of that said, I want to finish this video with an important quote from Theodore Rosevelt that every social entrepreneur should be aware of.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
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