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What Does a Social Entrepreneur Do?

Some social entrepreneurs start up innovative nonprofit groups that address unmet community needs.
Social entrepreneurs develop business ideas to address specific community issues.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2014
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A social entrepreneur uses business practices to work for a cause. An individual who fits this title may make some money from the social entrepreneurship efforts he puts into a cause. That, however, is not his primary goal. Instead, a social entrepreneur's goal is the change for which he hopes. Often, social entrepreneurs start non-profit organizations as they work toward social change. Others, however, may partner with established non-profits or private businesses; work for non-profits; or work in a range of sectors, including government.

Often, people are most familiar with activists who work toward social change, but social entrepreneurs work toward this type of change as well. Unlike activists, they seek to apply innovative ideas and practices that are usually used in business to create the type of change they seek. The primary goal of a social entrepreneur is to make changes that have social value. Some of their endeavors may produce profits, but that is not the point of a social entrepreneur’s efforts.

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Typically, a social entrepreneur becomes interested in a problem when society is having trouble finding solutions. Essentially, it may seem as though people are stuck with the problem and unable to move forward in any significant or lasting way. He then works to learn what is causing the problem and why previous solutions have failed to produce the type of change that is needed. With this information in mind, he then works to apply new ideas and business solutions to stimulate change and convince others to move forward as well.

In most cases, social entrepreneurs work toward solutions that are easy for others to use and understand. These entrepreneurs are usually concerned with making sure their ideas are ethical as well. Typically, they work to ensure that their ideas will be likely to garner a good deal of support, as they want people to become interested enough to implement them in their communities. This is due to the fact that change in even a small area can become major, widespread change if people in other areas get involved.

There are many examples that can help explain what a social entrepreneur does. A person can consider the work of John Muir, for instance, who is often referred to as the father of the national park system in the United States. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, is also referred to as a social entrepreneur for her efforts toward changing the way family planning was handled worldwide. Additionally, Florence Nightingale is another example of past social entrepreneurship at work; she is credited with helping to make modern nursing what it is today, improving hospital conditions, and founding the first nursing school.

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