Social entrepreneurship -- the practice of responding to market failures with transformative, financially sustainable innovations aimed at solving social problems of the region or locality has emerged at the nexus of the public, private, and non-profit sectors. It is a new breed of entrepreneurship that exhibits characteristics of non-profits, government, and businesses including applying to social problem-solving traditional, private-sector entrepreneurship’s focus on innovation, risk-taking, and large-scale transformation.
Social businesses - those with a socially beneficial objective can play an important role in developing countries in addressing needs such as healthcare, energy, education and sanitation, but such businesses have faced a difficult time scaling up to significant size and reach. A new study by researchers from Cambridge University has identified four key strategies and two methods for social businesses to scale up, which could help them, reach many more of the four billion people in developing countries who could benefit from the services of such businesses.
Meeting these needs through affordable and sustainable solutions offers businesses a vast opportunity for future growth. As developing markets emerge from low-income to middle-income status, their development offers businesses the potential to make profits while also delivering significant social impact. Aravind Eye Hospitals and Amul Cooperatives are successful examples of social impact enterprises which make profits but with substantial social impact and have scaled operations significantly.
Social businesses have had difficulty scaling up in developing countries due to a lack of infrastructure such as roads and electricity, coupled with a lack of clear property rights and well functioning courts. On a more encouraging note, new technology such as mobile phones and new business structures such as public-private partnerships now make it easier for such businesses to find ways to reach new consumers.
“Social businesses have enormous potential to provide important services to billions of people around the world – but they need to scale up in order to meet these needs,” said study co-author Professor Jaideep Pradhu from Cambridge Judge Business School. Higher Education institutions (HEIs) around the world are discovering that their students and staff want to connect with this growing movement. From the world class business schools to more vocationally oriented universities,
Social venture competitions and incubator programmes are springing up to tap into this energy and many Indian Universities are leading the way. HEIs which have a strong network of social entrepreneurs, individuals who champion social enterprise and dedicated support functions are taking note and beginning to develop strategy around social enterprise. Leadership is integral to creating wider recognition and awareness of social entrepreneurship, helping to remove barriers and reducing the challenges faced by social entrepreneurs. A strategic approach can help expose
Social entrepreneurship, a great deal of which may be under the radar (for instance, within active student societies, volunteering, knowledge transfer, community engagement). In turn, creating a culture of social venture creation provides a unique selling point for HEIs, whether in terms of the student experience or the wider public value they create.