Social Entrepreneurship is not about adding a ‘social good’ factor to a commercial venture, instead it requires a distinctly different approach towards social good. ‘Social Innovation’ is the real facilitator of social good and lies at the heart of a genuine social enterprise. Various definitions of Social Innovation are available, but here’s what it means in simple terms:
A product or a service that is designed in response to a specific socio-economic or socio- environmental problem and which positively impacts the lives of affected people
Is Social Innovation and Social Enterprise, one and the same thing?
Social Innovation is not an exclusive domain of a social entrepreneur. An unassuming, and not so highly educated yet smart village lad can emerge as a social innovator. Well, its a different matter that such an innovation from rural hinterlands is generally called ‘jugaad’ in our country. Any social innovation, regardless of its source, is primarily about applying disposable resources to solving a local problem. Take for example the eco-cooler made in Bangladesh using plastic bottles. Innovation by itself does not make it a social enterprise.
Source: GREY group
When a Social Innovation is scaled up to be delivered to more people facing the same problem by employing modern business management practices, it becomes a Social Enterprise. Baby Warmer, made by Embrace Innovations, started small as an excellent innovation for infants and now reaches 20,000 babies across 10 countries! Clearly, social entrepreneurship is the next stop in the journey of social innovation.
Source: Embrace Innovations
Social Innovation differs with the Nature of the Problem
Social Innovations can be categorized into three types:
- Purely Social
The problems or issues addressed here relate almost entirely to a socio-cultural context and the innovation developed is in response to this. Problems like lack of access to quality education, caste discrimination, gender inequality, lack of human rights for the LGBT community form some of the myriad burning social issues that need a innovative solutions. Apni Shaala, imparts ‘life skills’ based education to children in government and affordable private schools, thus addressing the need for holistic education.
Differently-abled individuals have historically suffered from the lack of equal employment opportunities and rights. Joanita’s Mettaa Foot Spa is a social enterprise that’s solving this issue brilliantly!
Generating sustainable livelihood opportunities for BOP communities, artisans and farmers helps them liberate themselves from poverty. Social entrepreneur Bryan Lee, started Krishi Star to ensure that farmers get to play a larger role in the value chain than just being small-scale producers thereby ensuring poverty alleviation.
Divine Chocolate has come up with a business model wherein, the cocoa growers in Africa own 44% of the company. This arrangement entitles them to a good share of profit in the company, long-term entrepreneurial opportunity and a powerful way to escape the clutches of poverty.
Socio-environmental innovation addresses environmental problems while simultaneously tackling social issues associated with them at grass root level. SustainEarth, through their BioGas plants, is giving a clean fuel alternative to rural households and trying to save rural women from indoor pollution.
Food wastage may seem a trivial issue when we look at it individually, but if you happen to look at it from Tristam Stuart’s eyes, you will realise the gravity of it. Tristam, through Feedback Global, is sensitizing the masses about food wastage by cooking meals from otherwise ugly looking fruits and vegetables and feeding poor children and the homeless.
Social innovation is taking place everywhere around us as we speak. It’s nothing but how we respond to the problems in our immediate vicinity as people. However some of us demonstrate a vision and take it beyond its original context for betterment of many others. They transform from being innovators to entrepreneurs and dream of a better world which would be worth living for tomorrow.