A Neoliberal Takeover of Social Entrepreneurship?

Curated Story
This article originally appeared on ssir.org

The focus of social entrepreneurship should be not the “enterprise” but the beneficiary. Its design should flow from, and be anchored to, the needs and capacities of the beneficiaries. Profit-making should be secondary to making impact. Hence, charitable donations and nonprofit capability that can add value to the beneficiary should be a welcome part of the solutions set.

The scaling of enterprise-oriented social entrepreneurship also worries me. A commercial enterprise at scale needs layers for efficient management, controls, standardization, and constant growth—factors that may not allow for the most humane, responsive, and efficient solutions for those in need. By contrast, a social entrepreneur trying to solve a problem for a community with which he identifies will more likely create a solution that is innately self-reliant, rather than profit-focused.


Ashoka Insight

Moving toward a model of social entrepreneurship that is less purely market-driven and more collaborative: We should promote hybrid models that plan the social change effort with both charity and revenue streams. We should we encourage community entrepreneur networks where charity funds are used to support entrepreneurial efforts from within a beneficiary community that help solve their social problem. We should we advocate for governments and corporates to join hands with nonprofits in planning, delivering, and monitoring welfare services.


Jyoti Sharma
Jyoti Sharma is a Taubman Fellow and Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Brown University, president of the Indian water and sanitation nonprofit FORCE, and an Ashoka Fellow.

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