Social Entrepreneurship: No Longer Business as Usual

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We see it all around us these days-in NGOs teaching farmers sustainable agriculture methods, in community-based organizations engaged in ecotourism, even in for-profits producing organic soap or selling mountain rice to benefit a community.This is social entrepreneurship at work in the Philippines, as practiced by for-profit or not-for-profit organizations born out of a cause or advocacy.Tommy Hutchinson, who spoke at the recent Go Negosyo Youth Entrepreneurship Summit and facilitated a two-day workshop on starting a social enterprise sponsored by the British Council, notes that there is much opportunity to do good in the Philippines."I think Filipinos are naturally entrepreneurial," Hutchinson says. This, as well as the size of recent related events such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, underscores the potential for, if not the growing interest in, social entrepreneurship.The Social Bottom LineSocial entrepreneurship has been defined in many ways, among the simplest of which is the use of entrepreneurial approaches-out-of-the-box thinking, for example-to solve social problems. Unlike business entrepreneurship, its bottom line is doing good and creating social change, and not necessarily profit.It is Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka, an organization that Philippinessupports social entrepreneurs, who is credited with coining the term "social entrepreneurship" some 30 years ago. But it is only in recent years that the concept has started to become better known."People recognize that we need to do business and run society in a different way," Hutchinson says, citing the economic downturn as a trigger. "It's been like an economic earthquake, forcing everybody to think of what we have been doing."Hutchinson, himself a social entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of i-genius, a network of social entrepreneurs around the world, points out that one of the issues we now face is whether we should start to combine society with the economy instead of treating them as separate. "The question now is: Do we go back to business as usual? Or do we take this possibly unique window to create a new economy for business primarily on delivering social and environmental benefits?"Revolutionizing BusinessIt is the potential for creating social and environmental good that makes social entrepreneurship attractive, especially in these times. "It's got universal appeal for anyone in this world who cares about something. And I think that can be quite a powerful drug," Hutchinson says. "Not many concepts in this world have that universal appeal."And it would seem that, at their core, that is what social entrepreneurs are: people who care about something. Just like their more profit-oriented cousins, social entrepreneurs innovate, grab opportunities, and solve problems. But the line is drawn at the nature of the opportunities and problems. "A social entrepreneur," Hutchinson emphasizes, "can spot an opportunity to do good and to do it in a way that is going to sustain them, their business, and their community. …