Is it possible to eradicate poverty? Can we extend healthcare to every corner of the world and ensure that all children in any country receive an adequate education? Today, the world is witnessing a silent army of social entrepreneurs, who are advancing solutions that have the potential to transform life around the globe.
Social entrepreneurship is broadly defined as the process of innovating solutions to bring a positive impact on society, instead of simply focusing on business profitability and returns. Led by this approach, a new generation of digital entrepreneurs are using the power of the Internet and social media to address societal challenges such as education, healthcare, and human rights. Take Milena Bottero’s online ‘Room for Tea’—a network that brings together interns who need affordable, short-term housing and older residents who are lonely and need company. Elsewhere, Aaron Sonson empowers citizens to ascertain their rights when faced with controversial police practices, with the free Stop and Search App.
The impact of the deployment of technology for societal transformation can be felt across the globe. In India, Sean Blagsvedt’s Babajob platform helps Indian blue-collar workers who have no access to computers find better jobs, by simply using their mobile phones to contact potential employers. Similarly, InVenture helps small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the world expand by offering them access to growth capital and business tracking tools. Leveraging the power of mobility to impact these businesses, the firm has even developed InSight—a tool that allows SMEs to monitor their financial information through text messages.
But a more famous example is that of Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, and the social entrepreneur who initiated One for One—a company that matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of shoes for children in need. Since 2006, TOMS shoes has used its stores in the real world and cyber space to bring in purchases, contributed more than 10 million pairs of shoes online, restoring the vision of 175,000 people, and providing clean water to developing nations in exchange of a premium coffee purchase.
Increased access to mobility is also expected to accelerate social entrepreneurship in Africa. With individual innovators here now harnessing 3D printing via their mobile devices to offer customized shoes to patients with deformed feet in Kenya, who have been afflicted by the Jugger Fly infection, this form of development could well be the shape of things to come.
Is social entrepreneurship the future of business? How will entrepreneurs employ technology to create profit and ensure social development? Share your views with us in the comments box below.