More Businesses Focus On Social Entrepreneurship

January 3, 2011

hands shaking in forestA new generation of emerging business leaders is emphasizing the importance of social entrepreneurship, the act of combining corporate profitability with charitable causes.

According to the Financial Post, a growing number of entrepreneurs have begun a trend of using capitalist strategies to tackle social problems. In addition to generating profits, these businesspeople use the knowledge and skills they acquired in the corporate arena to address pressing social issues.

Rumeet Toor, owner of the online employment board Jobs in Education, is a prime example of someone who uses her skills as an entrepreneur for a greater purpose. She allocates revenue from her company to finance the Toor Centre for Teacher Education, a teacher's college and general training facility in Kenya that opened a year ago.

"Businesses can fail," she said. "I wanted to create a legacy beyond my company, something I could be proud of."

Toor added that many young business leaders do not want to be confined to only one sector and would rather broaden the scope of their impact.

"From what I've seen, people of my generation don't want to be limited to working for either corporate or non-profit," she said. "They want both."

According to NPR, many social entrepreneurs say they do not want to give money to foundations, wishing instead to have greater control over where their donations go by starting their own. Chuck Harris, a former executive with Goldman Sachs, asserts that over the past decade, it has been independent thinkers who have been leading efforts to solve critical social issues with wealth they have created themselves.

Harris noticed that many of these donors "hoped to find the same kind of support for their decision-making in philanthropy that is readily available in the for-profit investment world." A founder of his own nonprofit group, Harris also helps other social innovators run their organization more like a traditional business.

One source of the budding social awareness in the corporate sector is the mentality of giving back that is gaining more prominence at business schools, MSNBC noted. At business programs across the country, the image of the aspiring Wall Street banker is slowly eroding and giving way to a more socially responsible business leader.

"Every class in business school is about making money, but in social entrepreneurship the end result is more meaningful," said Myles Lutheran, a student at the College of Business at Northeastern University. "You use the same skills as you would on Wall Street, but there's a different end result."

Emily Cieri, managing director of the entrepreneurial program at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, said she has noticed a dramatic shift in the attitudes among prospective business school students. According to Cieri, students are frequently saying they are attending school to learn more about social enterprise. Those students also boast a variety of experiences in socially focused businesses before entering the program, she said.

"I've been here for 10 years, and 10 years ago our students were primarily interesting in working in finance and consulting," Cieri said. That trend has changed over the past two to four years, she said.

Compiled by Alexander Gong


"Beyond the bottom line," financialpost.com, December 7, 2010, Jasmine Budak

"Change You Can Invest In: Social Entrepreneurship," npr.org, December 3, 2010, Larry Abramson

"More business schools embracing do-gooders," msnbc.com, December 28, 2010, Roland Jones

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