The trademark DNA of a social entrepreneur usually centers around, “are we making enough of a difference?” or “what can we do next?”, offering a way to uplift their communities. In this article we offer some insight into the work of social entrepreneurs around the world and why they are needed now more than ever.

At some point in our lives we may do a bit of soul-searching and wish to make a meaningful contribution to society, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Social entrepreneurs offer a dynamic model. They combine compassion and business acumen to scale solutions that are needed now more than ever. By putting the spotlight on local, sustainable solutions, social entrepreneurs seek to fill current gaps and prioritize social cohesion. Today we are seeing the responsibilities of business evolve to address a shared vision for an inclusive, fair economy on a sustainable planet.

At Satgana, we want the entrepreneurs we support to take an innovative approach to alleviating problems associated with socio-economic and environmental challenges. We are seeing a new generation of leaders who are channeling their passion and resources, dedicating themselves to finding ways to achieve real change in the world.

Financing social innovation

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, is a global platform that advances the world’s leading models of sustainable social innovation. The Schwab Foundation Impact Report provided some key insights into the work of social entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurs have improved the lives of people, the state of our planet whilst achieving economic success.

As of September 2020, the Foundation represents almost 400 late-stage social innovators and entrepreneurs operating in more than 190 countries worldwide. More than 622 million people have been directly affected by the operations and activities of social entrepreneurs across various industries – highlighting that the collective is powerful. Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship says that, “this report challenges the notion that models of social innovation can be dismissed as small, isolated islands of success amidst our overwhelming global challenges.”

Social entrepreneurs have demonstrated that a values-based approach centering around inclusivity, collaboration and sustainability, can deliver a significant impact to many, along with financial gains. One of those examples is Back Market – an online marketplace for refurbished electronics, giving a second life to used products like smartphones, which would otherwise be disposed primarily on landfills. The company has raised a total of $176 million in funding over 3 rounds as of May 2020. With Black Friday coming up, having a marketplace that fights against planned obsolescence is necessary to help decouple economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.

Cross-sector partnerships are key for survival and scale. From grassroot citizen movements to large corporations and international organizations, this can enable growth, lead to funding opportunities, create powerful innovations, marry complementary skills and expand access to new markets. We need social innovation diffused within every sector so we can adopt and scale sustainable and equitable solutions. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that by focusing on ‘people, prosperity and the planet’, businesses can generate long-term value. This could be achieved through strengthening healthcare facilities in rural India, leveraging AI and big data to create accessible education platforms across Africa or empowering Black communities and female founders.

A place at the decision-making table

Social entrepreneurs have been a source of innovation and economic dynamism, creating jobs and providing livelihoods to millions. Nurturing this community will be critical in shifting important power dynamics and giving social entrepreneurs credibility and visibility well beyond their borders. To achieve and accelerate action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we urgently need their expertise on creating solutions to current developmental challenges.

Where are social efforts being targeted?

Nearly 90% of the social entrepreneurs in the survey have strategies that are influenced somewhat or significantly by the SDG framework. The Stockholm Resilience Centre illustrates where social entrepreneurs have gained the most traction across the SDGs. To give ourselves the best chance at meeting the SDGs, we must engage with those people at whom the goals are targeted. These bottom-up movements are representations of the chaos theory which states that a butterfly fluttering its wings in China can cause a hurricane in the Atlantic. Simply put, social entrepreneurial ventures operate as a collection of complex systems working together to achieve an overall outcome in line with its mission.

As the global dialogue around the SDGs continues to evolve, social innovators have an important role to play in highlighting what already works and what is not captured in current frameworks. Our global Venture Builder platform presents a great opportunity to advance the adoption, mainstreaming and integration of proven social innovations into larger systems. It is our intention that Satgana nurtures this community in making social innovation and entrepreneurship a lighthouse for possibility and seeing this realized for the next generation to come. A thriving social entrepreneurship ecosystem is an essential engine for an inclusive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic and beyond.