Entrepreneurship Acumen [6 of 7]: Social and Ethical

The sixth Acumen Fund question (see the firstsecondthirdfourth and fifth) went like this: Please describe the role you believe social entrepreneurship plays in global development.”

Entrepreneurs create and deliver value. Social entrepreneurs do the same, but they also make sure that value is distributed fairly and ethically.

‘Value’ means different things to different people.  In the standard model of entrepreneurship, value for investors and entrepreneurs is measured in financial terms whereas it refers to a variety of other notions for customers. Sometimes value is inherent in the physical or aesthetic qualities of a product. However it is increasingly common for value to transcend what is merely tangible; and an entrepreneur will find himself selling ‘hope’, ‘belonging’ or simply a way for customers to get more out of life: perceived values that far exceed the financial price paid.

Social entrepreneurship recognizes that this model is unbalanced. And thus flawed. The flaw being that the entrepreneur/investor is only satisfying one kind of motivation – the monetary – while leaving a host of other motivations unsatisfied. This leads to a one-sided focus towards financial gain, often marked by a lack of holistic consideration towards society. (This, possibly, is where the ‘ruthless entrepreneur’ stereotype arises from.) Conversely, a social entrepreneur may (although not necessarily) get less financial return from a venture, yet, just like the customer, he will obtain additional value that far exceeds the financial disparity.

Social entrepreneurship in the ‘third world’ is but a step. We are learning from these efforts how social ventures can be ethical, viable and profitable – sharing value, financial and otherwise, fairly between entrepreneur, investor and customer. The far-reaching value in global development will occur when the same ethos is abstracted and brought back to inform investment decisions and business design in the ‘West’.

Social entrepreneurship is what all entrepreneurship, anywhere, should be.


Why this is still relevant to me today:

Entrepreneurs everywhere are in a position to change the world around them. And as such they should think about what those changes are and how they can ensure that any such changes are positive ones. This includes an incredible spectrum of things: employee health, development and happiness, delivering good customer experience and value, environmental considerations, charity, community involvement, sponsorship and mentoring, government relations, social policy and generally “setting a good example”.

In a separate post I wrote in more detail about how entrepreneurship can and should be ethical.

Distinguishing ‘social entrepreneurship’ from ‘regular entrepreneurship’ seems to imply that non-social entrepreneurs have less of a responsibility to society and the community they operate in. However, social or not, entrepreneurs always have a significant impact on their communities (jobs, wellbeing, quality of life, innovation) and therefore every entrepreneur is a ‘social entrepreneur’.

Consequently, every entrepreneur should strive to run and promote ethical business in all its forms.

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