Young: Entrepreneurs the agents of change in our society

Social entrepreneurism shows how business related risk taking can also benefit not-for-profit organizations.

Personal investment is the challenge now facing many organizations of the 1990s.

Individuals need to be ignited to a highly focused level of performance for this process to succeed.

As the dictionary appears to define the phrase “buy in,” it describes considerable risk and initiative.

Profitable risk-taking is not a culture that is familiar, comfortable, or even considered normal. Generally, we are told, less than 10 per cent in any venture have the innate ability to think and initiate momentum as entrepreneurs, i.e. risk takers.

The time has clearly come to accept the need and the challenge of the entrepreneurial spirit.

Change can’t happen just because it is declared or mandated. The need to create an environment that is conducive to entrepreneurial behaviour and assist members of any organization being it public, corporate or non-profit, to accept the invitation for personal change and growth and move through their fears and reticent mindset is inevitable.

Now is a window of opportunity to embrace the concept of the lemonade stand, which is somewhat of the Canadian Dream Machine all of us were given in our early age.

The idea then was to transform our individual spirit to an entrepreneurial level so that we may enjoy and savour every moment of its arrival .

That brings me to a very important and rising concept—social entrepreneurship, which truly has struck a responsive cord in our environment.

It is a phrase well suited to our times and the element of how the entrepreneurial spirit contributes to not only our change in terms of personal growth, but also how it combines the passion of a social mission with an image of the business-like discipline.

The time is certainly ripe for entrepreneurial approaches to our social problems.

Many governmental and philanthropic efforts often appear to have fallen short of our expectations.

Major social institutions are often viewed as inefficient, ineffective and unresponsive.

The language of social entrepreneurship may be new to our ears, but the phenomenon is not.

We have always had those dedicated committed individuals in our midst. They originally were blessed with creating many of the institutions we now take for granted.

However, the new name and the new game is truly important in that in implies a blurring of sector boundaries.

This adjustment excites an entrepreneurial zealot such as myself, because there is an element of then of broader change and yet collaboration.

Social entrepreneurship can include social purpose business ventures, and hybrid organizations that mix not-for-profit and for profit elements, such as homeless shelters, that start businesses to train and employ their residents.

So let that idea resonate with you–a world of entrepreneurship can mean more than economics and can contribute to the change in peoples lives while helping those in need. You’ve  gotta love it, folks!

Still, social entrepreneurship means different things to different people in our world today.

Many of us still associate social entrepreneurship exclusively with not-for-profit organizations starting for profit or earned income ventures that may have an entrepreneurial bent.

Others use it to describe anyone who starts a not-for-profit organization.

Still others use it to refer to small business owners who integrate their social responsibility into their company operations.

So what does it take to be a social entrepreneur?

Historically, the literature of yore tells us that an entrepreneur is someone who undertakes a significant project or activity and creates value from that action.

My favourite definition is “the innovative, dynamic process of creating incremental wealth,” the benchmarks being that of innovation and creativity. Hence, while it’s true that many of the entrepreneurs serve their function by creating new, innovative profit-seeking ventures, guess what, folks—starting a business is not the essence of entrepreneurship.

Esteemed business writer Peter Drucker wrote that: “The entrepreneur always searches for…change, responds to it and exploits it as an opportunity.”

So in today’s world of entrepreneurship, the notion of “opportunity” has come to be central to the multitude of definitions of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs have a beautiful adapted mind-set that sees the possibilities rather than the problems created by change.

For leading scholars such as Drucker, launching a new venture is neither necessary nor sufficient for entrepreneurship.

The same, he asserts, would be of new not-for-profit organizations.

Social entrepreneurs  are one singular species in the broad spectrum of entrepreneurship—with a social mission.

Mission-related impact becomes the central criterion, not wealth creation. So, when we decide to embrace the concept of entrepreneurs as change agents, let us please not ignore the true breadth and scope of the entrepreneurial spirit.

Joel Young is an entrepreneurship coach and founder of the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.

eagleyoung@shaw.ca

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