The term ‘social entrepreneurship’ was coined in the 1980s, however has been around for far longer. My decades-long practice of starting and leading social change-driven initiatives has led me to a new way of thinking about entrepreneurship that strongly differs from the tech-heavy, scale-oriented profile that is typically associated with Silicon Valley.
While once upon a time my creative, feminist soul would have dismissed starting a for-profit company as restrictive and insufficiently politicized, I now hold the opposite view. My conviction today is that founding a values-led enterprise of any size and variety can be one of the most socially impactful things that you can possibly set your heart, mind and spirit to.
I also believe that it’s time to recognize the value of projects and ventures of all sizes, not just those with the capacity to ‘scale’, meaning rapid, sustained revenue growth. To date, scale—often over profitability in recent years—has been the principal measure of successful organizational growth, with a focus on performance indicators like sales and number of customers. But should these metrics be the main or only ones? What about social and environmental impact: shouldn’t these constitute part of how we evaluate and define success?
Whether you decide to create an organic pet supply business, a non-profit society to support people experiencing homelessness, a reusable takeout food container program or pretty much anything else that is your expression of world improvement, it qualifies as social entrepreneurship in my books.