We’ve learned a few things in helping support over 900 social enterprises around the world scale their operations with the help of our Experteers, Capacity Building Programs, research, and educational programming. Our work has touched early stage, award-winning enterprises long before they reached international acclaim, including groups like Inyenyeri, Sistema B, M-KOPA, Ubongo and BEMPU. At all stages in the social enterprise “pioneer gap”, we’ve been in the trenches with small, growing, and even large social enterprises. Along the way, we’ve scaled up our own award-winning social enterprise, too.
We’ve seen first hand what research continues to prove: Most social impact startups fall wildly short of their projections and end up going out business. The main reason? Social entrepreneurship is hard. Really hard. But there is another reason, too: founders, biased by their own egos and intuition, don’t take the time to truly embrace proven frameworks that will increase the odds of success.
Despite what you might think, there are no such things as visionary entrepreneurs. In fact, the number one reason that startups fail is because founders think they have an idea that will work, when in reality there is no market for it. This is why startup guidance is full of quotes like “fall in love with problems, not your solution”, “don’t become a technology in search of a problem” and “get out of the building”.
So how do you stack the odds in your favor when growing a social enterprise? Our guide below shares the most impactful frameworks and tools that you need to grow and scale your social enterprise. It’s still going to be a long, hard journey, but we’ve found that it helps to know that you’re not alone (even when it feels like you're riding a lion).
Why We Need You To Win
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. —Albert Einstein
Our planet can’t sustain the population under the current global, capitalistic system that operates today. Despite what many philanthropists think, we are not yet changing the world and are not likely to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In fact, we might even be hopelessly offtrack by the time 2020 rolls around.
But not all is lost.
Social enterprises not only solve social and/or environmental issues, but they also have a few other profound effects:
- Creating world-positive jobs for others, meaning people can find career opportunities that create a positive net impact
- Divesting financial capital away from net negative investments into world-positive ideas
- Forcing entire systems to change and become more socially responsible
So whether you are starting your own social enterprise, launching a new social enterprise within an existing organization, or simply using social enterprise thinking to mold your career into a more world-positive direction, this guide was written to help you be the change.
Definition of Social Enterprise
Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems... They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.” — David Bornstein, Author, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas
For this guide, we’re going to define the term “social enterprise” in a way that might be new to you. Social enterprise is a verb (a way of doing things), not a noun (a specific thing). Social enterprises are not necessarily stand-alone businesses like any other “startup”. Social enterprise, rather, is a way of thinking that can live as a stand-alone initiative or be embedded within an existing organization. One of our more popular articles covers the 600+ year history of the social enterprise movement and explains some of the different legal entities that can use social enterprise thinking.
In the MovingWorlds Institute, we educate our Fellows to understand a social enterprise as:
“An entity that utilizes marked-based forces to solve social and environmental challenges through the creation of sustainable revenue streams – with the intention of positively influencing the larger systems and stakeholders around it.”
But there are shades of gray to this. You’ll most often hear the term “social enterprise” to refer to a “Benefit Corporation”, but it can also refer to a new public-sector team responsible for improving education in a city, or even a part-time job within a company to green your supply chain. Social enterprise thinking can exist in governments, education, non-profits, for-profits, and more.