Ten Years of Doing Good and Doing Well: Social Entrepreneurship Now

What a dizzying decade it’s been: in 2000, the tail end of a high-flying dot-com boom created instant gazillionaires… and now, chronic long-term unemployment competes for attention with homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosures. While bad, the news isn’t all bad, and in fact the green shoots of social entrepreneurship born in the fervor of that turn-of-the-century boom give real hope that our busted economy will emerge not just revived, but transformed.

NPR marks a decade of social innovation through business with a story highlighting major trends of the movement. In “Change You Can Invest In: Social Entrepreneurship,” reporter Larry Abramson tracks the converging impulses from 3 different sectors:

  • traditional wealthy donors who aren’t satisfied with giving sums to direct services charities or non-profits because they also want to address root causes of injustice;
  • burgeoning corporate social responsiblity programs who spin off employees with corporate culture know-how in combination with social mandates;
  • turn of the century (circa 1999) creation of a particular kind of Silicon Valley millionaire with San Francisco Bay Area progressive values and high tech skills.

It’s a uniquely American phenomenom where opportunity and inequality chafe, and in a hopeful way, provide the necessary creative friction to find solutions. In America, we have the opportunity to create enormous wealth in a stable business environment, and we feel an even stronger need to create meaning by workng to reduce poverty and injustice. A service that closes the nutrition gap between rich and poor schoolkids by providing organic hot meals that is also making money? A site that helps you become a microlender to someone in the developing world, or even one of those people struggling to make ends meet at home? For more profiles of socially responsible businesses:

Bloomberg/BusinessWeek Slideshow: America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneaurs

Says Abramson, “according to one estimate, 500 professors are teaching courses on social entrepreneurship worldwide.” The demand that business do no harm at least (Google’s motto is “do no evil”) and at best, put entrepreneurship to work solving social ills, has trickled up from students enrolling at business schools.

…the current generation of young people also has a strong sense of social responsibility, said Thomas Moore, dean of the College of Business Administration at Northeastern, which has some 200 students enrolled in social enterprise programs.

“There’s a lot of interest in social enterprise at the business school, and I think it’s partly generational,” Moore said.

“These days students don’t want to wait; they want to make a difference now,” he said. “This is the curriculum that prospective students expect, and if you don’t give them the opportunity to get involved in it they will do it for themselves anyway.”

If you look beneath the radar of the mainstream corporate business press, you’ll see numerous conferences springing up to cultivate this entrepreneurial energy and match a passionate business builder to a funder. One of the oldest business-school based contests is the Global Social Venture Competition, organized by UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School. The Social Venture Network brings fledgling businesses and established ones together, advertising conferences and other opportunities like the ones listed here. There are vibrant communities of business people coming together to “marry meaning with money” and get out of “two pocket thinking”–i.e., making money however you can, then paying for philanthropy out of the other pocket. Social enterprise instead aligns profit to purpose, highlighting green values, fair trade practices, and offering solutions to social justice problems both at home and in the rest of the world.

Those businesses eager to distinguish their value-driven missions from mere corporate greenwashing have even designated a special form of corporation–a “B Corp” designation–to signal their deep, bottom line commitment to a minimal carbon footprint, fair trade and hiring practices, and profitability. [Disclosure: Care2.com is a B Corporation company. A good thing!]

In some ways, the 2007-2008 meltdown in the financial services sector is the flipside (or karmic turn of the wheel) for business schools that produced greedy Wall Streeters dabbling in risky ventures that jeopardized people’s homes, pensions, and jobs. It’s reassuring that young people, experienced serial entrepreneurs, and anybody with a business idea that’s also a social good sees possibility in doing good, and perhaps even doing well at it.

Maybe it’s finally time to stop looking at corporate America to create jobs, and try launching your own socially responsible business to create jobs of your own.

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Will L.
Past Member 7 years ago

Good and noble, worth while, unfortunately too late to stop the globalists in their tracks or change the course of history in time to save us from the calamity that approaches like a run away freight train..NAU..NWO...Orwellian nightmare, soon to be signed by two lock stepping Leaders that guts our nations and revokes our rights and freedoms..the lynch pin of the NWO is set in Law..corrupt tho it is..the die is cast.
Even these activist sites days are numbered by ever encroaching corporate globalist regime.
As quickly as a light switch turns out a light..they will turn off the net revolution for good.We are practicing dissent from a torpedoed ship and it sinks so quickly beneath the merciless seas of corruption.
There is no rescue, there is no hope that is real. We are the next to be imprisoned and destroyed by the same mindset that created the Holocaust of the Jews..imported to America by the money families and ruling classes who were directly involved in financing of the 3rd Reich, creating illegal wars and invasions, destruction of the twin towers, and colluding to occupy Palestine and create the bastard child state Israel as a spear head for America in the middle east...
There is nothing to celebrate, only to grieve.
That fact is too evident when the entire situation is seen starkly through disbelieving eyes. Too little too late. We can not run fast enough or wide enough.they come by land and sea..thats the reality we face here. The stark futility of our position.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

great article thanks

Melissah Chadwick
Melissah C7 years ago


Dean P.
Dean P7 years ago

kinda bunch of bull poppycock if you read it right.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

Nice, thanx

tom Booth
tom Booth7 years ago

nice post

Sue M.
Sue Matheson7 years ago

Yes! We need to see more articles like this one.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Ernie Miller
william Miller7 years ago

Cool. small steps make for a long journy.

Ioana Boca
Ioana B7 years ago