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Seven Skills for Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneur in a meeting

Over the years, social entrepreneurship has grown significantly. Today, giving back in a substantial and unique fashion requires more than simply donating profits to a good cause—business owners who aim to stand out in the social entrepreneurial field have to develop novel and effective approaches to addressing broad social issues. To enact their visions for social justice, a successful social entrepreneur often needs particular robust skills.

Recognizing unjust social issues

Social entrepreneurs start by identifying a problem. Most often, they choose a fundamentally stable but unjust social circumstance that excludes or marginalizes a portion of humanity. These populations struggle because of their lack of resources and inability to stabilize themselves due to underlying social, economic or political injustices.

The “father of microcredit,” Muhammad Yunus, is a telling example. He called out the inability of impoverished Bangladeshi populations to secure any amount of credit. They did not qualify for loans through the banking system, and could only accept loans with usurious rates from local, predatory moneylenders.

Identifying business opportunities

Muhammad Yunus not only identified this fundamental problem, but he also identified how he could use his own capital to address it in a way that would be financially beneficial. His bank, Grameen Bank, kept itself afloat by charging interest on the small loans to poor Bangladeshi women. The bank would then use that gained interest to help fund loans to other women.

Yunus saw this as a prime opportunity to apply social entrepreneurship. He believed in the Bangladeshi women’s ability to generate income, and recognized that it was only their socio-economic circumstances that prevented them from doing so. Identifying business opportunities often requires an open mind and a special intuition.

Inspiring change through participation

Jason Aramburu started working with biochar—a fertilizer made from plant waste—when he was a research scientist with the Climate Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University. In 2008, he founded re:char, an organization that helped provide biochar to third-world farmers to promote sustainable agricultural practices.

Aramburu saw the need for better and affordable fertilizer. In Western Kenya, for example, small-scale and subsistence farmers spend more than half of their income on fertilizers that negatively impact the environment. With re:char, Aramburu used his specialized skills and expertise to apply change through participation in agricultural production.

Taking direct action

Social entrepreneurs are not likely to be satisfied with merely handing out capital to fix a problem. They take direct action to create positive change. Muhammad Yunus and Jason Aramburu pinpointed individual concerns, became directly involved in a process to ameliorate injustice, and turned both issues into business opportunities.

An emphasis on the practical nature of social entrepreneurship is important. Direct action requires direct engagement. Most often, that involves establishing organizations, networks, and infrastructures to enact the changes that social entrepreneurs want to see. It also involves working on the ground directly with affected communities—perceiving and understanding what it is they need, and taking action to help.

Public speaking

For social entrepreneurs to enact their vision, they must be effective public speakers. Change requires inspiration. For that inspiration to take root, social entrepreneurs must be able to effectively communicate their vision.

It can be challenging to motivate people, even those who are aware of the social inequalities in the world. It means asking people to break out of their routines and take action. Public speaking is one way to achieve this goal because it combines a number of important factors and synergies that build on one another. Crowds who are composed of similar mindsets can find a sense of community. A public figure or leader, who people can believe in and support, can gain momentum. A clear, inspirational vision of how things could be changed positively can result in action.

Fighting adversity

At the root of most social entrepreneurs is a deep commitment to social justice. Social entrepreneurs fight for communities who face daily challenges that only feed political and social instability and inequality. Social entrepreneurs must be innovative and persistent in the ways in which they fight adversity. They must be both highly passionate and pragmatic to achieve their vision.

Many obstacles can get in the way of social entrepreneurs: financial concerns, budgeting, lack of donations and inadequate organizational networks, to name a few. But each of these challenges provides an opportunity to win against adversity, which is the mission of the social entrepreneur.

Creativity

For social entrepreneurs, the intuition to find a business opportunity in an unjust set of circumstances is not enough; they must also develop creative solutions to address the injustice. This is often done by thinking outside the box. Social entrepreneurs have endless opportunities to further their causes of social justice. Identifying these opportunities is a great challenge that takes a talent for creativity.
Social entrepreneurs are innovative thinkers by nature. They see and do what others cannot. Uncovering and taking action against social injustice is achievable, because social entrepreneurs work tirelessly to make our world a better place.

Learn More

Our online Master of Public Administration at Ohio University can help you build the skills to address public needs in effective, efficient and imaginative ways. We want you to take the big ideas in your head and put them into action by helping you develop as a project manager, communicator, policy analyst, and financial mind. When you have an expert understanding of public administration and the professional tools to back it up, you can lead a career of consequence for your constituents.

Sources

http://ashokau.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Social-Entrepreneurship-What-Everyone-Needs-to-Know-Teaching-notes-final.pdf

https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_entrepreneurship_the_case_for_definition

http://www.biochar-international.org/rechar

http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar

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