Social Entrepreneurship can be defined as doing business for a cause. This form of entrepreneurship combines business and social issues in a bid to improve the lives of people. Apart from altruistic motives, one possible reason behind such a move is that if society progresses well, businesses will also become more profitable. This article will take you through the definition, types, and examples of Social Entrepreneurship. 


  1. What Is Social Entrepreneurship?

  2. How Do We Define Social Entrepreneurship?

  3. Examples Of Social Entrepreneurship

  4. Types of Social Entrepreneurship

  5. Business Entrepreneurship And Social Entrepreneurship

  6. Characteristics Of A Social Entrepreneur

  7. A Social Entrepreneur Needs a Vision


What Is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social Entrepreneurship is when an individual or a group of people take up the responsibility to solve the prevailing problems of society. It could be a low-key affair or a large-scale drive that involves the masses. What matters is that the activity or initiative solves a problem and brings about a positive change in someone’s life.

But who can be a social entrepreneur?

Anyone and everyone can come up with a solution to a problem and become a social entrepreneur, be they organizations or individuals. Strong willpower, the intention to do good and a suitable approach are the driving forces.

Read on to know more about the definition of social entrepreneurship and the types of social entrepreneurship, backed by a few examples of social entrepreneurship.

How Do We Define Social Entrepreneurship?

In the words of Bill Drayton, a social entrepreneur, author and founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, “Whenever society is stuck or has an opportunity to seize a new opportunity, it needs an entrepreneur to see the opportunity and then to turn that vision into a realistic idea and then a reality and then, indeed, the new pattern all across society. We need such entrepreneurial leadership at least as much in education and human rights as we do in communications and hotels. This is the work of social entrepreneurs.”

Journalist and author David Bornstein, while defining social entrepreneurship, says, “What business entrepreneurs are to the economy, social entrepreneurs are to social change.”

As per American professor Greg Dees’s definition of social entrepreneurship, “Social entrepreneurs are a ‘special breed’ of leaders.”

Social entrepreneurs cannot be defined in a single sentence. They are changing the world in different ways every day. If we look around, we’ll find several examples of social entrepreneurship that have affected monumental change.

Examples Of Social Entrepreneurship

Here are some great examples of social entrepreneurs who have brought about tremendous change in India:

Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj: Anshu, a media professional, wanted to provide proper clothing to the underprivileged. He started collecting old clothes to upcycle them and distribute them among the poor.

Santosh Parulekar, Founder of Pipal Tree: Focusing on one of the most underrated segments, jobs in rural India, this organization is the best example of social entrepreneurship. Pipal Tree was established to help youth from rural India find suitable jobs.  

Urvashi Sahni, Founder and CEO of SHEF (Study Hall Education Foundation):  Set up to educate girls in rural India, SHEF has transformed more than 1,000 schools, trained tens of thousands of teachers and impacted nearly 5 million students’ lives in UP and Rajasthan.

Harish Hande, CEO and Founder, Selco: India’s first solar funding program, Selco aims to provide sustainable energy in the country’s rural areas.

Trilochan Sastry, Founder of ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms): Trilochan, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management,Bangalore, began his journey as a social entrepreneur by filing a PIL against some political leaders in Delhi High Court. He formed ADR in 1999, which now reviews election procedures to strengthen democracy in India.  

These were just a few well-known examples of social entrepreneurship in India. Not all attain the same levels of popularity, but they still have considerable impact on society. These examples prove that you don’t need a degree to be a social entrepreneur. An idea and the drive to see it through are what make you a social entrepreneur.

Many people have ideas. But how do they execute them? To understand this, let’s review the different types of social entrepreneurship.

Types of Social Entrepreneurship

 There are various types of social entrepreneurship. Here we’ll look into four types of social entrepreneurship:


1. Community Social Entrepreneur: Community social entrepreneurs are small-scale changemakers. A community social entrepreneur can be a young individual teaching underprivileged kids in a town, a group of college students running sanitation and plantation drives in a city or one or more organizations working for social good.

Community social entrepreneurs work in specific geographies and communities but for a wide variety of causes. From hygiene and sanitation to employment and food distribution services and from plantation and environment safety to providing employment to deserving ones, they do it all.

These types of social entrepreneurs are the ones who bring about instant change and strive for more.

2. Non-Profit Social Entrepreneur: These social entrepreneurs believe in reinvesting profits. So, along with the initial cost, they put their profits into the cause.

For instance, if the initial project was to educate kids from underprivileged backgrounds and they received more funds than required to facilitate the initiative, they will utilize the surplus to educate women and expand their portfolio.

People who have a business-oriented mindset prefer this type of social entrepreneurship. Not just that, but companies and organizations chose non-profit social entrepreneurship to utilize their social goodwill for the cause.

3. Transformational Social Entrepreneur: These entrepreneurs focus on establishing a business that can solve a purpose that government initiatives and other businesses can’t.

Transformational social entrepreneurship is more like running an organization where you hire skilled people, think of newer ways to stay relevant in the market, follow the guidelines issued by governments and do everything that an enterprise does.

The larger picture for transformational social entrepreneurs includes a collaborative set-up of multiple businesses serving society collectively and individually.

Some examples of transformational social entrepreneurship are CRY (Child Rights and You), Goonj and JusTea.

4. Global Social Entrepreneur: Global social entrepreneurs think on a larger scale and focus on changes required at the global level. They put social responsibility above profits.

They usually collaborate with organizations working on similar causes in specific regions/countries. One of the most relevant examples of this type of social entrepreneurship is the Make A Wish Foundation. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, it actively works in around 50 countries, fulfilling the wishes of critically ill children.

Business Entrepreneurship And Social Entrepreneurship

 Having covered a few types of social entrepreneurship, let’s see how social entrepreneurship differs from business entrepreneurship.


Business EntrepreneurshipSocial Entrepreneurship
More about the individualAll about collective efforts for society
Aims at producing goods and servicesAims at producing goods and services that can serve the community and solve a problem
Focused on the market, demand and trendsFocused on a solution-oriented approach to a social problem
Measures performance according to profitsMeasures performance according to the impact made
The purpose is to satisfy customer needs, excel and earn profits.The purpose is to promote their cause and improve the society


Characteristics Of A Social Entrepreneur

Social Entrepreneurship requires people to have the following traits:

  • Leadership: You can’t meet your goals without a highly motivated team assisting you. A good, inspirational leader is a must for every cause. They can influence opinions as well as physical outputs.
  • Emotional Balance: Social work requires both empathy and a practical approach at the same time. A highly emotional person might get overwhelmed, but an emotionally balanced person will handle difficult situations better.
  • Vision: Visionaries come up with the best solutions to social problems. Why? Because they’re thinking of long-term, permanent resolutions.
  • Ability To Multitask: Entrepreneurship and multitasking go hand-in-hand. Only an exceptional manager can juggle meetings, pitches, on-site activities, sourcing, production and whatnot.
  • Decision-making: Social entrepreneurs must prioritize and make sound decisions as they affect the lives of people in need. They need to think of a situation holistically and make a sound and rational decision.
  • Open To Collaboration: Social entrepreneurship cannot be done in isolation. Entrepreneurs need to be open to collaboration and partnerships. Every project needs people with a different expertise and skill set. A social entrepreneur needs to work with a wide range of people to achieve their vision.

There are many social entrepreneurs in the world today and millions of problems that need to be heard and solved. From educating children to providing them with nutrition, from environmental issues to women’s safety, from unemployment to mental well-being, the list goes on.

A Social Entrepreneur Needs a Vision

Social entrepreneurs need to have a clear vision to make things happen. To set goals, make a timeline to achieve the goals, and galvanize a team to work towards them, a compelling vision is needed. Many organizations drift to obscurity because they do not have an image of what they want the future to look like.

The visions of social entrepreneurs must be bigger than just alleviating the current conditions. They should aspire to change the equilibrium itself. They need to thoroughly understand the system they work in fully and then make a systematic and specific approach towards achieving their visions.

The youth of the world want to work with entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place.  If you want to become a social entrepreneur, you will find many capable people who will want to work with you to achieve your goals. 

Do you want to see how you could become a social entrepreneur and work toward a cause close to your heart? Harappa’s Leading Self program will help you develop into an effective leader, problem-solver and changemaker.

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