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5Ps to becoming a social entrepreneur

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Today the most remarkable young people are the social entrepreneurs, those who see a problem in society and roll up their sleeves to address it in new ways. Bill Drayton, chief executive of Ashoka, an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs, likes to say such people neither hand out fish nor teach people to fish; their aim is to revolutionise the fishing industry. If that sounds insanely ambitious, it is.”

Nicholas D Kristof,
The Age of Ambition,
The New York Times,
January 27, 2008.

Bill Drayton aptly shares with us who is a social entrepreneur.

They are those individuals who combine best practices in entrepreneurship with a sense of social mission.

They step into society to serve where the market system has failed to provide for the poor, investing in the development and provision of basic amenities such as healthcare or education. It’s good to be a social entrepreneur and in T&T we need MORE social entrepreneurs.

In my last article, I pointed out through the Social Progress Report why our country needs more social entrepreneurs.

Following from that article, someone asked me: what’s the toolkit for becoming a social entrepreneur?

As your social entrepreneur guru, drawing from my research over the years reviewing case stories from global and local social entrepreneurs, I found they all possessed 5Ps which I can consider as a road map to becoming a social entrepreneur.

1 Passion: Social entrepreneurs are both community conscious and business savvy. They are driven by these dual objectives: make a living and make a difference. So, you are bound to face challenges and constantly develop new ways to improve your enterprise. If you are not really into it, you are likely going to harm the people you are trying to save.

As James Stephenson from said, “do what you enjoy!” This is what separates social entrepreneurs from the rest of the startup world.

2 Purpose: Adnan Mahmud, co-founder of Jolkona, a Seattle-based impact investment firm, helps social entrepreneurs in Indonesia and his native Bangladesh succeed. Mahmud left a secure career as a project manager at Microsoft and never looked back. He states: “A successful social entrepreneur is someone who has found the right balance: doing good while doing well.”

3 Plan: You can have passion and purpose but if you don’t have a plan, then you can be journeying along many roads not sure where you want to go, or when you have actually reached your passionate destination that fulfils your purpose. It’s more than having an idea. You need to have your business plan according to Devin Thorpe, author of Your Mark on the World.

4 Partner: The success of social enterprises depends more than most ventures on building community. David Lavinsky, in Forbes magazine April 2013 writes: “One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is trying to do everything alone.”

When a new business lacks resources or skills, building your network through strategic partnership helps “both of you achieve more success.” Conflict Women Ltd, Founder and CEO, Asiya Mohammed, indicated: “Partnerships are vital to the social enterprise success. Seek out partnerships with companies, government agencies, foundations and like-minded organisations. You cannot go it alone.”

5 Profit: You can have your passion, purpose, plan, partners but if your social venture is not producing revenues, you cannot nourish, sustain or scale up that good purpose of providing for the poor.

Founder Stephen Edwards, of Transformation through Theatre & Technology, utilises the power of theatre and technology to support the personal growth of youths as they transition from childhood to adulthood.

He indicated: “Finding seed and growth capital is one of the most challenging factors for any entrepreneur.

For social enterprises, the dual purpose makes it even tougher to find investors. Despite this, if you want to improve the lives of more children through theatre and technology you have to produce to be able to pay your bills and reinvest in nourishing the social venture.”

Despite these challenges, the rugged, innovative, and creatively resourceful world of social entrepreneurship is growing by leaps and bounds.

In T&T, we need to begin recognising social entrepreneurs and developing the ecosystem that will support them just as we do for their cousins, commercial entrepreneurs.

Nirmala Maharaj is a doctoral candidate at the UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business. Her research is in social entrepreneurship. She can be contacted at 689-6539 or e-mail [email protected]


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