Social Entrepreneurs

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In this issue we look at the role of social entrepreneurs and the idea of ‘social entrepreneurship’. The distinction is made to suggest a difference between entrepreneurs, who may act in a social or anti-social manner, and entrepreneurship, which perhaps is inherently social, rather than labelling a subset which is deemed to be so.

The topic is prompted by one of the editor’s recent visit to the Skoll School of Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England and a chance meeting with someone involved in Britain’s Big Capital Society. Financed by the Skoll Foundation, deriving its funds from Ebay’s Jeffrey Skoll, the Skoll School is one of a growing number of institutions devoted to promoting social entrepreneurship. The Big Capital Society is a UK government project to fund social entrepreneurship.

Sign of Our Time takes a look at the social and environmental challenges of our times and includes a description of Big Society Capital, an independent financial institution with a social mission, set up to help grow the social investment market.

The first feature surveys some current thinking about the meaning of social entrepreneurship. Borrowing from Wikipedia, the extract provides an overview of the history of the idea, some of its inventors, both distant and recent, and outlines some of the debate about the term.

The second feature looks at a powerful case in point, Access 2 Work, and the transformation of property and young people’s lives in Ellesmere Port, a seriously deprived area near Liverpool, England. Whatever meaning one gives to social entrepreneurship form an academic or theoretical point of view, the term is perhaps best wrung out of real-world examples. Perhaps there is none better than this one.

Also in Liverpool, two social economy activists – Robbie Davison and Helen Heap – have been thinking through the question of ‘right money’ for social enterprises. In an independently published book, The Investable Social £ntrepreneur (mis-spelling intentional), they identify the need for ‘builder capital’ which they see as the financial scaffolding which supports the formation of a financially sustainable social enterprise.

The AEX Page includes pieces on a recent meeting of the Economics Conference, Rudolf Steiner and other economists and the role of a Youth Bond project in Argentina. The page concludes with a quick quip from Leonard Cohen!

Victor’s View considers five axioms concerning true enterprise, reflecting the opening paragraph above in suggesting that it is innately social. True enterprise occurs whenever someone uses his skills, talents and resources to serve or meet the needs of others. One needs, therefore, to be very clear and careful when using the qualifier ‘social’, lest that means enterprises not so described are assumed to be un– or even anti-social’.

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