The Real Problem Solvers: Social Entrepreneurs in America

The Real Problem Solvers: Social Entrepreneurs in America

The Real Problem Solvers: Social Entrepreneurs in America

The Real Problem Solvers: Social Entrepreneurs in America

Synopsis

Today, "social entrepreneurship" describes a host of new initiatives, and often refers to approaches that are breaking from traditional philanthropic and charitable organizational behavior. Nowhere is this more true than in the United States- where, from 1995–2005, the number of non-profit organizations registered with the IRS grew by 53%. But, what types of change have these social entrepreneurial efforts brought to the world of civil society and philanthropy? What works in today's environment? And, what barriers are these new efforts breaking down as they endeavor to make the world a better place?

The Real Problem Solvers brings together leading entrepreneurs, funders, investors, thinkers, and champions in the field to answer these questions from their own, first-person perspectives. Contributors include marquee figures, such as Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, Ashoka Founder Bill Drayton, Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder of the Acumen Fund, and Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation. The core chapters are anchored by an introduction, a conclusion, and question-and-answers sections that weave together the voices of various contributors. In no other book are so many leaders presented side-by-side. Therefore, this is the ideal accessible and personal introduction for students of and newcomers to social entrepreneurship.

Excerpt

The term social entrepreneur and the field of “social entrepreneurship” are not universally agreed-upon constructs. in fact, they are complex, contested, and changing, with definitions, methods, and fields of engagement often as unique and varied as the individuals themselves who are innovating in this field.

My own foray into this work began in 1997, the year of the crash of the bhat in Thailand and the start of the Asian economic crisis. During my doctoral work comparing American and Japanese international development assistance, I had become a believer in the power of business in economic development. I did not go so far as to side with the “trade not aid” mantra, but I do believe that business has to be an integral part of any country’s economic development strategy and tool kit. During the Asian economic crisis, Asian companies were facing new challenges that had not heretofore been part of their world. Many Asian companies, weaned within the cozy confines of their home economy, had become regional and begun to face new and important competitive challenges, including the need to compete without the support of their home governments, the realities of differing cultural expectations, and, in 1997, exposure to volatile capital markets and currency fluctuations caused by the crisis. Massive downsizing coupled with the lack of a social safety net in many Asian economies increased the political and social turbulence in the region. It became clear that companies needed to think through not only the specific challenges of responding to the crisis but also the larger question of what the role of the corporation was in society.

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