Richard Branson on Social Entrepreneurship

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Entrepreneurship isn’t about selling things — it’s about finding innovative ways to improve people’s lives. Until recently, most people in business focused on products and services that would appeal to consumers, and this resulted in the creation of many great companies and a lot of jobs. But attitudes are changing. A new generation of entrepreneurs is using approaches from the commercial world and employing technology to tackle social and environmental problems — these areas used to be the exclusive territory of government agencies and charitable organizations.

The British Cabinet Office says that there are 70,000 social enterprises helping people, communities and the environment in this country alone. These businesses and organizations contributed more than 54.9 billion pounds to the economy in 2012 and they employ almost 1 million people, yet we have only scratched the surface.

No matter what the structure of the company — whether it is for-profit, nonprofit or a creative melding of the two — entrepreneurial solutions are offering engagement, jobs and hope in areas where we had none. The example set by Econet Wireless, which is led by Strive Masiyiwa, is one of my favorites. A couple of years ago, Econet, a telecom company based in South Africa, started to develop and distribute solar charging stations in the region, providing power for cellphones, lights and other devices. These stations are helping to transform the lives of people living in rural areas where the supply of electricity is erratic.

Econet shifted its business model to drive change for people and the planet, and at the same time it created a lucrative new revenue stream. This shift has opened up new avenues for the company, which is using its charging stations to power refrigerators that store vaccines for the community.

Business and government must encourage established entrepreneurs and young talent to focus on problem areas like health, education, climate change and social care. How can we speed up this process and make even more of an impact? There seem to be three key obstacles facing entrepreneurs who want to get social enterprises off the ground.

Source: Entrepreneur (link opens in a new window)

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