Journey so far
During the second half of the 19th century, nationalist consciousness spread across India and self-help emerged as the primary focus of sociopolitical movements. Social activists like Baba Amte and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar sowed the seeds of social welfare amongst the citizenry. Organizations like the Friend-in-Need Society (1858), Prathana Samaj (1864), Satya Shodhak Samaj (1873), Arya Samaj (1875) , National Council for Women in India (1875) and others focused their attention towards burning social issues related to women literacy, casteism, child marriage, female feticide, and religious superstition. In the pre-independence era many philanthropists and social workers inspired by Gandhian philosophy continued their fight against social evils with swadeshi and khadi as chief instruments of social change.
Post-independence years saw the rise of several NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) funded by big foundations, businesses and private persons. With a wide range of areas of focus, these non-for-profit entities addressed the inadequacies of government departments & policies by reaching communities left out of their reach. A major boost to social entrepreneurship in the Indian subcontinent came from Nobel Prize winner Dr. Mohammad Yunus in the 80s when his brain-child the Grameen bank, a micro-finance institution established as a part of a research project, became successful in rural Bangladesh by providing collateral-free credit. It was soon realized that profits can be made along with serving the society, provided, you treat profits as a means and not the end result.
80s and 90s saw the rise of NGOs like CRY, Akanksha foundation, Umang and Goonj who not only brought scale & professional governance to social good efforts but also spawned the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Many successful names in today’s social sector started their careers from one of these NGOs. Today, non-profits have widened their focus towards sustainable energy, conserving ancient art forms by providing livelihood to artisans, and fighting social concerns like gender inequality, LGBT rights etc. Emergence and acceptance of for-profit ventures who sustain their social impact thru consistent profit creation is attracting many bright and passionate individuals to social good sector.
Changing personality of Social Entrepreneurs and their Ideas
For several years, social enterprises were often assumed to be idealistic and lacking entrepreneurial ability. In popular imagination, social entrepreneurs were a bunch of middle-aged khadi clad persons in a perpetual activist mode, seething with anger against the society and the establishment. Today’s social entrepreneurs are a picture in contrast. Most of them are young and creative with stellar credentials armed with management acumen to run a social good enterprise as a professional entity.
In a survey by Entrepreneur, 73% of millennials worldwide prefer a job that allows them to make a direct positive impact on the local community, which is also largely reflective of Indian youth. These new age social entrepreneurs beautifully blend technological innovations with positive humanitarian interventions to create social impact. Most often than not their solutions are simple & ingenious and are designed with the beneficiaries in mind. Take a look at some of them:
Promotion of social good projects for fund raising and sale of ethically made products has received a big impetus with the advent of crowdfunding, trade fairs and festivals (joy of giving week). Over the last 5 years, there has been a significant rise in the percentage of young donors.
Private investment ecosystem has significantly improved over the decade particularly last five years. Impact investors, social business incubators and donor agencies are emerging as key players in the game. Incubators like Dasra, Unltd India, Ashoka Changemakers and Villgro to name a few provide risk capital to many early stage social ventures. So far, $220 million have been invested in 77 social businesses in India. As a result of new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) guidelines of 2013, an estimated USD 2.5-3.3 Billion of CSR funds will be available to Indian social ventures every year.
So, if you are thinking of making a social impact, time is now!