What is Social Entrepreneurship?


Social entrepreneurship (SE) is one of emerging concepts in the recent decades as there are different success stories in different side of world. “It combines the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline, innovation, and determination.” (Dees, 1998).
One of the leading social entrepreneur, Mohamed Yunus- the founder of Garmeen Bank- is considered as an icon in social entrepreneurship who was awarded by Nobel Peace Prize due to his great contributions in this field. One of his great quotes that considered as a guidance for other entrepreneurs was: “Making money is a happiness. And that’s a great incentive. Making other people happy is a super-happiness”. (Muhammad Yunus Quotes, 2017)
Also, Social Entrepreneurship becomes an important area for scholarly researches in many fields such as management, marketing, political science, economics and other disciplines. (Short, Moss, & Lumpkin, 2009).
So, what does “social entrepreneurship” really mean? What does it take to be a social entrepreneur?

Different Definitions of SE

There are many different definitions for social entrepreneurship as it has been developed from different domains such as not-for profit, for profit and public sector. (Short, Moss, & Lumpkin, 2009).
The following is different definitions of SE:
One of the famous definitions was:

“Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:
– Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
– Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
– Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning,
– Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
– Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created”

(Dees, 1998).

“Social enterprises defined as competitive firms that are owned and trade for a social purpose (includes NFPs, worker-owned collectives, credit unions, etc.)”

(Smallbone, Evans, Ekanem, & Butters, 2001).

“The process of adding something new and something different for the purpose of building social capital”

(Thompson, 2002).

“The term social entrepreneurship (SE) is used to refer to the rapidly growing number of organizations that have created models for efficiently catering to basic human needs that existing markets and institutions have failed to satisfy.”

(Seelos & Mair, 2005).

Mair et al. (2006) view social entrepreneurship as “a process of creating of creating value by combining in new ways.” The intention of this combination is to explore opportunities to create social value leading to stimulating social change and fulfill social needs.

(Mair & Marti, 2006).

From all of the above, it was clear that it is difficult to find a unified definition for SE. But all focused upon exploring social issues and meeting the social needs.

Social VS Commercial Entrepreneurship

Researchers highlighted “differences between social entrepreneurship and commercial entrepreneurship to help clarify conceptual boundaries, including:

  1. Opportunity differences due to market failure;
  2. Mission differences resulting in differences in management, motivation, and tension between social and commercial activity;
  3. Different approaches in managing financial and human resources
  4. Performance measurement in social ventures that complicates accountability and stakeholder relations.” (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006)

In Commercial entrepreneurs, creation of social wealth is just a by-product of economic value. On the other hand, “social value creation appears to be the primary objective while economic value creation is often a by-product that allows the organization to achieve sustainability and self-sufficiency.” (Seelos & Mair, 2005).

Models of Social Enterprises

1. Grameen Bank (Bangladesh)

Muhammad Yunus, an economics professor, founded the Grameen Bank in 1976 to supply credit to those who would not qualify as customers of established banks. Grameen Bank grants unsecured loans to the poor in rural Bangladesh. The targeted segment for Garmeen bank has a unique criterion which has to be:

  • poorest villagers.
  • Landless.
  • Women, which have the most priority.

Grameen operates 1191 branches, serving over 3 million poor people in 43,459 villages in Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank inspired a global micro-credit movement that has spread to 65 developing countries, reaching 17 million borrowers. (Seelos & Mair, 2005).

2. Sekem (Egypt)

Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish (1937 – 2017), founded Sekem at 1977. Sekem means according to an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph “vitality of the sun”. Abouleish identified the hugest problems in Egypt: poverty, overpopulation and pollution. (Dr Ibrahim Abouleish, 2017).
Profits from Sekem’s businesses fund institutions such as schools, an adult education center, and a medical center.
Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish was multiple awarded for his achievements, among others with the Right Livelihood Award, better known as “Alternative Nobel Prize” in 2003. (Dr Ibrahim Abouleish, 2017).


Social Entrepreneurship as described here is not just a concept, but it is a breakthrough in mind sets that has a great reflect on the world. Many Entrepreneurs and leaders can lead their society to be developed concerning the social issues as a main value of their business. Social Entrepreneurs can make a significant change through their contribution in giving a model for directing organizational activity toward the achievement of social purposes.[vc_tta_accordion active_section=””][vc_tta_section title=”References” tab_id=”1513990242108-714edc34-ea52″][vc_column_text]

  • Austin, J., Stevenson, H., & Wei-Skillern, J. (2006). Social and commercial entrepreneurship: same, different, or both? Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 30(1), 1-22.
  • Dees, J. (1998). The meaning of social entrepreneurship. Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
  • Dr Ibrahim Abouleish. (2017, 12 15). Retrieved from SEKEM
  • Mair, J., & Marti, I. (2006). Social entrepreneurship research: a source of explanation, prediction, and delight. Journal of World Business, 41(1), 36-44.
  • Muhammad Yunus Quotes. (2017, 12 15). Retrieved from BrainyQuote
  • Seelos, C., & Mair, J. (2005). Social entrepreneurship: Creating new business models to serve the poor. Business horizons, 48(3), 241-246.
  • Short, J., Moss, T., & Lumpkin, G. (2009). Research in social entrepreneurship: Past contributions and future opportunities. Strategic entrepreneurship journal, 3(2), 161-194.
  • Smallbone, D., Evans, M., Ekanem, I., & Butters, S. (2001). Smallbone, D., Evans, M., Ekanem, I., & Butters, S. (2001). Researching social enterprise: Final report to the small business service. ,. Middlesex University Business School, Middlesex University: Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research.
  • Thompson, J. (2002). The world of the social entrepreneur. The International Journal of Public Sector Management, 15, 412–431.


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