Are Social Entrepreneurs Crazy?
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Social entrepreneurs have never been in greater demand, as the world grinds on with tired solutions to seemingly intractable problems such as hunger, poverty, war, inequality and disease. And in theory, social entrepreneurs bring new ideas that challenge the prevailing wisdom that these problems are intractable at all.
They are front and center in developing countries, with new vaccines to combat disease, water pumps to irrigate crops and micro-loans to start new businesses. And they are working in every corner of government, nonprofits and private firms to imagine innovative ways of creating clean energy, improving graduation rates, rebuilding poor neighborhoods and confronting the jobless recovery.
The question is whether we have enough social entrepreneurs to play this role. They have rightly earned growing support from philanthropists such as Warren and Howard Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, Catherine Reynolds, and Jeffrey Skoll, and from foundations such as Ford, New Profit, Edna McConnell Clark and Templeton. But the prevailing wisdom about social entrepreneurship (and there is a prevailing wisdom in the field) says there are only a small number of social entrepreneurs out there, perhaps as few as one in every ten million people.