The argument that the wealthiest individuals are the only people that can save the world is certainly polarising. Mainstream media has conditioned us to believe that the wealthiest are the most selfish, but time has shown, that the creators of wealth know best of how to dispose of it.
While the vast economic impact of entrepreneurs on society is undeniable, their growing role and impact in social change remains an on-going discussion. The dichotomy of generating commercial profits and financial returns, and altruistic aims to achieve a change in society, highlights the question of whether the two can truly co-exist in the entrepreneurial landscape.
However, if not entrepreneurs then who?
Entrepreneurs may be best qualified as providers of social change due to their pro-active ‘problem solving’ attitudes. Technological entrepreneurship has already had profound impact on standards of living, with many unique goods and services reducing consumer dependence on obsolete systems and technologies. Entrepreneurs that achieve renowned success, are those who have identified specific market opportunities. This pro-active thinking could offer progressive results when applied to some of the greatest social problems of today; poverty, education, and gender equality.
The growth of social entrepreneurism, has been well documented in recent years. Reports by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) show that, in the UK, social entrepreneurs are growing in both importance and number. This new breed of entrepreneurship exhibits characteristics of non-profit organisations, and when applied to problem solving private sector entrepreneurship, encourages risk taking, innovation, and transformation. (Mahesh Daru, 2013) Social entrepreneurs are relentless in pursuit of their visions; people who will not take ‘no’ for an answer. (Bornstein, 2004) They prioritise solving social issues rather than exploiting market opportunities, factoring in positive returns in society as a primary measure of performance and success. Due to their narrow scope in projects, they can often solve problems which are ignored or overlooked by commercial and government enterprises.
Some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time have proven their commitment to improving Public Health across the globe. For instance, Jeff Skoll through the Skoll Foundation has funded various organisations such as Water.org and World Health Partners, both of which have had significant social impact. Investing in social entrepreneurship is well-known avenue for entrepreneurs as most already redistribute portions of their profits to local charities and community ventures. A survey by Ernst & Young revealed that 90% of entrepreneurs donate money and 70% donate a resource ‘just as important’, their time. The combination of strong philanthropic spirit, ambition to solve the hardest challenges, and drive to make a positive change, make entrepreneurs the best suited candidates for social change.
Social transformation will be the chief aim of millennial entrepreneurs and those that undertake today’s greatest social issues will create global change felt for generations. It will be interesting to see, in the backdrop of this, whether these philanthropic achievements will dictate a new narrative for the wealthiest individuals in mainstream media or if their wealth will continue to be viewed negatively…