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What We Can Learn From Social Entrepreneurs

Updated on July 22, 2013

Social entrepreneurs identify social problems and they will innovate and seek to address those problems by using their entrepreneurial skills. They are some of the brightest mind on earth, who are willing to contribute and help the less fortunate people in the society, with sustainability and long term solutions in their mind. Here are some of the things that I learn based on my experience in conversing and working together with aspiring social entrepreneurs:

  1. Calling before Career
    The world measures success generally by good careers that will give handsome rewards. In the end, monetary gains seems to be the ultimate measure to successful life. After graduating from college or university, people are rushing to advance their career and the earlier they start, the better it will be. Look at social entrepreneurs and we will find that they busy themselves with initiating social enterprise or volunteering, which is not at all rewarding if we are looking only at the monetary gains. Some starts after graduating from college and some starts after climbing up the career ladder, either full time or part time. Why would they want to leave goods jobs and careers that can promise them security and luxury in life? It is irrational to some people, but humans are sometimes irrational as we are not just programmable money-making machines; we have feelings and callings.

    Following our callings gives fulfillment and satisfaction, and that's what makes us human. People won't be social entrepreneurs only because they are lured by the business aspect of it. There can be much more lucrative business opportunities elsewhere, rather than going to the rural village in developing countries. It is pointless to just follow the career path and life that others define as successful, if at the end we are burned out as we fail to fill the hollow in our heart. Different people have different callings, some will find it in helping the less fortunate through social enterprises, some will find it in family life, some others may find it in excelling at the workplace, or it can be a combination of them. But one thing that we learn from aspiring social entrepreneurs is that they follow their callings.

  2. Placing others before ourselves
    Social entrepreneurs recognize and identify social problems and they use entrepreneurial skills and innovate ideas that can make a social change and impact. Business entrepreneurs, on the other hand, identify opportunities that will enable them to reap profits and returns. Although social entrepreneurs typically take profits from their operation, the revenue generated will be used to further their social causes and make a difference in the lives of others. The reward for social entrepreneurs are the satisfaction and fulfillment in their heart when they see their work has impacted many lives, not just temporarily but permanently since social entrepreneurship aims for sustainability in business.

    Taking a look at the industry and corporate world, not many are willing to participate in corporate social responsibility by giving back to the society. On the other hand, the measure of success for social entrepreneurs are the positive impact and social changes they bring to the society, and not the monetary gain they take for themselves. It is about giving and not taking. Indeed, giving is the highest standard of living, and many social entrepreneurs live up to that standard.

  3. Pursuit of excellence
    More often than not, we will find that those who initiate social enterprise and those who are willing to volunteer are top notch people. They are not people who can't find jobs in a more rewarding career or industry. They excel in their work and study, and they bring the spirit of excellence to the social enterprise. Sometimes we may have thought that since we are just volunteering, with little or no monetary gains, we can just do things our own way. No, social entrepreneurs typically will give their best effort to tackle the social issues, through well-thought ideas and professionalism in the operation. Small things lead to greater things, and it is difficult to believe that we will excel in life and career if we are half-hearted in volunteering activities. If social entrepreneurs excel in volunteering that is not for their own gain, we should think twice whether we have pursued excellence in our professional work.


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