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  • Writer's picturePriya Sharma Shaikh

Social Entrepreneurship

They both create opportunities – but there is a difference. The regular entrepreneur thinks only of his enterprise and donates in retrospect while the social entrepreneur thinks of how his enterprise can change the lives of people by empowering them to be a part of the change.

Years ago, I had the privilege of working on OASIS (Old Age Social Income Security) a project initiated by a small company called Invest India Economic Foundation, under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice – we endeavored to develop a pensions framework for retired people of India by encouraging them to systematically save money into a professionally managed pension scheme during their work lives so that they can continue to live with dignity in their golden years – our team led by Gautam Bhardwaj worked tirelessly and passionately initiating research papers, conducting conferences, meeting stock market experts, insurance and mutual fund heads, government officials and bureaucrats for several years; more often than not having cost over-runs - the result of that project is the recently launched New Pension Scheme.

Around the same time I got acquainted with the phenomenal work of Mohammad Yunus, the economist from Bangladesh, who created the unique ideology of micro-finance and formed the Grameen Bank, which helped the poorest of the poor to break out of poverty by providing loans to entrepreneurs who could not qualify for regular bank credit – loans were given in solidarity groups that ensured repayment.

In the United States; Leilah Jenah started the Sama Source, which works effectively to uplift communities across the globe - they simply understood the billions-of-dollars-worth business process outsourcing model and turned it into an enterprise that used technology to get thousands of poor people to be part of projects and gave money straight into their hands. Goodwill Industries popularly associated with charity, employs marginalized people, recycles donated clothing and helps corporations with doing their events and managing their relocation - they earn store revenues amounting to $3 billion.

Closer home the SEWA Bank formed by Elaben Bhatt works successfully with poor women with the mantra that they are 'bankable' as they are economically active; and not to be forgotten is Dr. Verghese Kurien’s white revolution gave livelihood to millions making India one of the world’s largest producers of milk and made Amul a household name.

All the examples mentioned above are successful social entrepreneurship stories led by great minds that kept their mission of effecting change in societies as their epicenter.

Entrepreneurship normally is a form of work that people with leadership qualities easily take to, and if the leader is inspiring and has an incredible idea or innovation that makes life better, he or she naturally attract followers to believe in their passion and co-create wealth for stakeholders. Now imagine a leader that has a passion to create wealth with a social mission as its epicenter – a mission that is viable while effecting change, that is inclusive of people living at the fringes of society and that can reach out to people across the globe; a business leader of such an enterprise is called a social entrepreneur.

What further aids social entrepreneurs’ today is the new but popular ideology called impact sourcing, which is sourcing based on social impact and quality. Procurement Managers from corporations have the option to choose the partners they wish to work with through the year for their business related needs and are also are conscious of the companies corporate social responsibility #CSR targets. There is a growing trend to consciously work with organisations that have an explicit social mission. By choosing to work with such enterprises they ensure that their allocated budget is actually being used to address issues like poverty alleviation. This way of reaching out to people and aiding their lives is far more effective and real than donating money to an NGO at the end of the year or hoping that a fraction of the tax one pays is collected by the government and appropriately disbursed to improve the lives of the needy.

#socialentrepreneurship is one of the important keys that can make each one of us have a meaningful role to play and feel the responsibility of making our world a truly global village and us a truly global family.

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