The concept of “social entrepreneurship” emerged in the 1980s from the work of Bill Drayton at Ashoka, funding social innovators around the world, and Ed Shoot at New Ventures, helping non-profits explore new sources of income. Social entrepreneurship refers to the practice of combining innovation, resourcefulness, and opportunity to address critical social and environmental challenges. Social entrepreneurs focus on transforming systems and practices that are the root causes of poverty, marginalization, environmental deterioration and accompanying, loss of human dignity. In so doing, they may set up for-profit or not-for-profit organizations, and in either case, their primary objective is to create sustainable systems change. The key concepts of social entrepreneurship are innovation, market orientation, and systems change.

Social enterprises bring the self-sufficiency of for-profit businesses and the incentives of market forces to bear on global social problems in a way that neither pure capitalism nor pure charity has been able to match. There is a great deal of interest in the social enterprise today because this approach offers a new — and possibly more sustainable — path for us to address the world’s most pressing challenges. These social enterprises deliver benefits in a self-sustaining way by using their revenues to finance activities that generate social benefit.

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