Social Entrepreneurship - A Medium for Innovation

There are many kinds of business models and entrepreneurship to choose from based on what suits a business’s needs best. Sometimes the choices can be blinding and cause decisions that end up in loss or regret. And it is very common for a business or start-up to have this experience.

So what can be done to avoid this? How to bounce back from a dead end? How to find ways to protect a business from the effects of a plan that stops working? The answers lie in addressing the problems from the very beginning, going back to the starting point all over again.

Social entrepreneurship is one model that comes to mind. Business driven with purpose and clear values aligned with a search for ideas,  and opportunities that will have a positive impact on all who are involved. A direction that is easy to understand but tricky when put to practice. Businesses often think of social entrepreneurship in terms of CSR or non-profit ventures to support the primary organisation. This creates a divide in value system and practice. Heavy focus on donations and charity work can lead to a false belief of goodness, thus leading the business further away from the root of the issues it may be facing.

Most business models are based in and advocate the top-down decision-making approach. The key points are all in place but this approach does very little to address the ground realities of the business itself. Short-term goals and immediate remedies become the focus at the expense of clarity and original purpose.

Social entrepreneurship advocates the need to explore and fund solutions that address social issues directly and have an impact in the society and world at large. It focusses on maximising the potential of a society and generate income as well as profits. The core continues to be concern for welfare of the community or society and not self-interest or simply prioritizing profit. This thought itself makes social entrepreneurship a medium for innovation by moving away from the limited field in which traditional businesses operate. It picks up on factors that are seen as not important in a traditional corporate business. Social entrepreneurship provides a framework that looks to gain a broader understanding of an issue, how it relates to society and use this ground level knowledge to utilise available resources to develop new and innovative solutions through a business.

As a socio-economic business model, social entrepreneurship highlights the need for long-term objectives by combining conscious leadership and personalised management. It reverses the top-down approach. The community members, who are most affected by an issue are the changemakers. They are most aware of their troubles and thus are the best problem solvers as well. These conversations are crucial for the problem solvers too, they are able to see and understand their space better and feel involved in a true sense. Their contribution is invaluable and  necessary for dealing with the problems at hand.

By giving everyone, particularly the bottom of the pyramid the ability and space to share, discuss and solve issues close to them, a direct change in society can be foreseen. A society and world where everyone has the possibility to thrive and progress. C.K. Prahalad’s the Fortune at The Bottom of The Pyramid explores this concept in-depth, “You Can’t do it alone - but you can do it together”. Profit gained by keeping the welfare of its community at the centre.

An innovative approach on its own

Now, when it comes to investing in society, identifying the problems need be followed up with mindful and personalised holistic measures keeping the welfare of society as priority. Clear purpose and value systems. Impact investments backed by unique skill development programs and learning centres are the need of the hour. These programs empower communities, leading to a sense of independence through employment. The direct  and lasting impact being restored dignity and increased self-worth, a legacy that provides something for generations to come.

At the same time, it is important to remember that technology and innovation on its own cannot achieve much. Technology and human emotions, empathy when combined can help society unlock its potential and lead to extraordinary progress and change. And social entrepreneurship is one medium that can make this a reality.

A social entrepreneur who is open to suggestions, share and exchange ideas, and builds a business that is fully aware of its purpose, value system and nature of community or society will have the ability to identify and find lasting solutions for any issues it may face. A unique and flexible approach, which can be applied to multiple fields, businesses of varying size is just one of the many ways towards making valuable and tangible change in society, a way forward.

About the Author

Nand Kishore Chaudhary, a globally acclaimed social entrepreneur, is the founder of Jaipur Rugs. His philosophy of totality, inclusion and for-profit solutions to society are widely discussed.

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