Thursday, April 11, 2013

Social Entrepreneurship, “What is it and why should you get involved?”

Social entrepreneurship is an increasingly popular term in Singapore, often widely defined as social oriented organizations that sustainably create social and/or environmental impact, while ensuring that it is economically viable (Double or triple bottom –lines).

As written on the Social Enterprise Association (SEAssociation) website, Social Enterprises operate in the form of 4 commonly known business models:
1. Plough-back model: Ploughs all/part of their profits into a non-profit cause/organization.
2. Subsidies model: Sells its products in the market at normal or higher prices, and transfer all/part
of its profits to a specific beneficiary community by selling to them at large discounts.
3. Work-integration model: Aims to provide employment to the marginalized.
4. Social needs model: Creates sustainable solutions towards a social cause.

Additionally, non-profit and for-profit organizations with mentioned attributes are both till date acceptable forms of social enterprises.

Upon researching into the reasons why youths commonly get involved in social entrepreneurship, I have observered the following:
1. The idea of doing “good” sustainably, with the project’s financial feasibility under consideration, has increasingly been viewed as a more ideal way to create social change.
2. Social entrepreneurship provides youths the ability to exercise their creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills for the benefit of a social cause which they are equally passionate about.
3. The process of starting a social enterprise provides the founders the opportunity to acquire entrepreneurial skills, experiences and networks which will help them in future start-ups.
4. They simply just want to do “good”! By helping their beneficiaries achieve better quality of life or standard of living through their social enterprise.

However, beyond all the lofty ambitions and motivations, every social entrepreneur wanna-be should take important note that the route to creating a successful social enterprise is no easier than a for- profit one. Hence, similar to the statistics of 9 in 10 start-ups failing, social enterprises are no different!

Therefore, prior to starting a social enterprise, please beware of the risk of failing, and even worse, the risk you are potentially exposing to the beneficiaries you are helping in the event that you fail. There have already been a few cases, where many disadvantaged after giving up their previous jobs to join a social enterprise ended up becoming unemployed as enterprise went bankrupt within just a few months of starting up.

Nonetheless, I still do encourage youths to get into the business of social entrepreneurship. Despite the risk, the extensive rewards of social problems being resolved sustainably through successful social enterprises should not be undermined. In addition, even if one fails, the entire start-up experience will definitely transform every founder into a person of great character and entrepreneurial spirit.

- Written by Stanley Chia, Managing Director of Envisage Education Pte Ltd, a registered social enterprise of the Social Enterprise Association

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