Archive for March, 2009

Is the term ‘Social Entrepreneur’ overused?

March 18, 2009

Last Sunday I sat in on a ‘meeting of the minds’ between young professionals working to grow a generation of changemakers and social entrepreneurs in India. A great way for an Acumen Fellow to spend a Sunday!

Among those present were Vipin from Ashoka Youth Venture (YV) India – YV’s mission is a compelling one – believing that everyone should feel empowered to address societal change, and in particular that the youth are the tipping factor and need to learn early in life that they can impact social change. Also present was Pooja, who co-leads UnLtd India, an organization that supports Indians with a social change idea in years 1-3 of the project’s start and Aditi who leads the EdelGive Foundation , a venture philanthropy fund seeded by Edelweiss Capital, working to create education & employment opportunities for underprivileged youth.

I have to admit I did not sit through the whole day, but I did listen in on a conversation that got me thinking…started with Pooja suggesting that maybe we (…passionate souls working in this space) overuse the term ‘social entrepreneur’, and by applying it too broadly ultimately dilute its meaning. So who is a ‘social entrepreneur’? Muhamed Yunus clearly, but the term also applies to many of Acumen investee CEOs & Founders. Indeed one of the Founders of 1298 seems to have a continuous flow of new societal change ideas that he implements. Maybe that is the key word, “implementation” – many smart people have great ideas and the will to drive them forward, but are not able to implement them. (I guess that is where the organizations mentioned above and the Acumen Fund come in…first you inspire a ‘budding changemaker’ through YV, who goes on to get funding from UnLtd India and then gets larger investment from Acumen to scale.)  Am interested in fellow Fellows and the community’s thoughts on whether the term ‘social entrepreneur’ is applied to loosely.