How to Make Social Change Your Business

Article excerpt

TOM SAVAGE always wanted to be an entrepreneur. As a child, he was more likely to be found browsing the pages of the Financial Times than the Beano, and at the age of 14 started trading on the stock market.

However, he quickly realised that using money to make more money did not motivate him, and that he was more interested in the opportunities that money creates to affect positive change in the world.

While an undergraduate at Edinburgh University, Tom started a student entrepreneurs' society and helped a group of fellow students to raise Pounds 25,000 for an expedition to Zanzibar.

Their project, to chart and conserve previously unexplored coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean, formed the basis for Savage's first social enterprise, Blue Ventures, which he founded with fellow student Alasdair Harris.

Tom developed Blue Ventures while studying on the MSc in Management Research programme at Oxford University's Said Business School.

"I remember lots of phone calls from the library and a lot of work after hours," he says. "People on my course remember me as being on the phone most of the time." Tom, 27, is a rising star of the growing social entrepreneurship movement.

According to Government figures, around 55,000 firms in the UK define themselves as social enterprises, generating a combined turnover of around Pounds 27 billion a year. They are notfor-profit companies that achieve public good and whose surpluses are ploughed back for that purpose into the business or the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profits for shareholders and owners.

Tom defines a social enterprise simply as "using business methods to help promote social change".

It's a concept that has shot up the political agenda, with the Government keen that the new breed of business take on more public service delivery. …