Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.
Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.
Social entrepreneurs often seem to be possessed by their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of their field. They are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical implementation of their vision above all else.
Each social entrepreneur presents ideas that are user-friendly, understandable, ethical, and engage widespread support in order to maximize the number of local people that will stand up, seize their idea, and implement with it. In other words, every leading social entrepreneur is a mass recruiter of local changemakers—a role model proving that citizens who channel their passion into action can do almost anything.
Over the past two decades, the citizen sector has discovered what the business sector learned long ago: There is nothing as powerful as a new idea in the hands of a first-class entrepreneur.
Why "Social" Entrepreneur?
Just as entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches, and creating solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur comes up with new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.
Examples of Ashoka Fellow / Social Entrepreneurs
- David Kuria (Kenya): David Kuria is creating high quality sanitation facilities accessible to the urban poor, by connecting sanitation as part of the dignity of living in community. He includes the community in the design, construction, and management of the facilities.
- Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (Uganda): In many wildlife-protected areas in Uganda, communities and wildlife are sharing habitats, living closer and interdependent lives than ever before. Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is linking Uganda's wildlife management and rural public health programs to create common resources that benefit both people and animals..
- Haron Wachira (Kenya): Through a model that relies jointly on aggregating production, co-ownership of agricultural businesses, and retooled value chains, Haron Wachira has created a surprising win-win scenario for subsistence farmers and agro-processing businesses in Kenya. This is impressive not only because of the unlikely partnerships formed, but because the agricultural sector in East Africa is chronically mismanaged and poorly coordinated.
Historical Examples of Social Entrepreneurs:
- Florence Nightingale (U.K.): Founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions.
- Margaret Sanger (U.S.): Founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she led the movement for family planning efforts around the world.
- John Muir (U.S.): Naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.
- Jean Monnet (France): Responsible for the reconstruction of the French economy following World War II, including the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC and the European Common Market were direct precursors of the European Union.
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