Earning money while saving the world, is that social entrepreneurship?

URBACT

By URBACT, on February 21st, 2011

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Although not new as a phenomenon, the term social entrepreneurship has increased its popularity during the last couple of years. The European Commission has launched the programme Innovative Union and in many countries, national and local projects aiming at social entrepreneurship have been launched.

Earning money while saving the world, is that social entrepreneurship? According to Wikipedia, a social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change with an objective of public interest. Instead of measuring performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital, while at the same time making a living out of it. Also, social entrepreneurship is not limited to starting a business, but more generally to launch an activity or any form of organization.

In Sweden, a major movement towards social entrepreneurship has been going since 2009. The Knowledge Foundation (KK-stiftelsen), the research financier for universities, connects the need of social entrepreneurship to the globalisation process:

The Knowledge Foundation has initiated a 9 year long program for social entrepreneurship, aiming to create space for the people and organizations who invent socially beneficial initiatives. Around €12 million has been invested to strengthen social entrepreneurship in Sweden.

Eight research projects at Swedish universities were granted funds and just recently a platform for social entrepreneurship, www.samhallsentreprenor.se, was launched. The platform is a national forum operated by Malmö University and Mid Sweden University in joint venture, with the aim to be a national nod that collects all initiatives under way in Sweden and to develop research, knowledge and expertise in the growing field of social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

But if social entrepreneurship isn’t a new phenomenon, then what is the need for a national platform? Erika Augustinsson, project leader for the platform samhallsentreprenor.se:

“What is new today is that social entrepreneurship has renewed strength. And this renewal is related to how the world looks like. [...] we see problems such as social gaps more clearly. There are a lot of people who want to do something about this.”

According to Erika Augustinsson, the gain in interest for social entrepreneurship can also be connected to a generational change. “Among the younger generation, there is a new logic to solve societal problems”, Erika says. What the market economy previously was doing, the civic society is doing now. And it’s in the intersection of market economy and civic society the interesting stuff is going on, she continues.

With this new interest for social entrepreneurship, a need for an organisation has occurred, according to Erika Augustinsson: “This type of hybrid players needs an organization to influence society”.

The samhallsentreprenor.se platform is not only a meeting place. The aim is that the nod will be active in creating a strategy for how to work with social entrepreneurship. During the two years that the pilot project runs for, the platform will start pilot projects, try out different methods and arrange workshops. The platform will result in a national strategy for how to work with social entrepreneurship and how to encourage and make it easier for social entrepreneurs in the future.

Furthermore, the platform looks to support organisations and cooperation. Models for integrated approach will be in focus, according to Erika Augustinsson:

“ With this platform, we want to see if we can find structures and models for such interaction and perhaps transfer good examples to other cities in Sweden and Europe. “

Erika Augustinsson is looking for cooperation with other member states when forming the national Swedish strategy for social entrepreneurship: “We’d love to hook up as many as possible in the national strategy, which is exciting to work with other countries. Can you use the skills we have in other parts of the world?”

Erika Augustinsson means that what social entrepreneurship is about us letting in more players with ideas and visions in sustainable development. This is essential for achieving change, Erika Augustinsson concludes. Perhaps this also has been a tool in dealing with the current economical crisis.

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One Response to “Earning money while saving the world, is that social entrepreneurship?”

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