Social entrepreneur is a term that has become popular in the nonprofit sector, although there might be just as many definitions attached to the term as there are people using it.
With its increased use, it might be helpful to have an agreed-upon meaning that will serve everyone in the sector.
In their book “Getting Beyond Better,” Roger L. Martin and Sally R. Osberg contrast the term “social entrepreneur” with both social service provider and social advocates in that social entrepreneurs both take direct action and seek to transform the existing system. They maintain that social entrepreneurship can be defined as having the following characteristics:
- The identification of a stable but inherently unjust equilibrium that causes the exclusion, marginalization or suffering of a segment of humanity, a group that lacks the financial means or political clout to effect transformational change on its own.
- The development, testing, refining and scaling of an equilibrium-shifting solution, deploying a social value proposition that has the potential to challenge the stable state.
- The forging of a new stable equilibrium that unleashes new value for society, releases trapped potential or alleviates suffering. In this new state, an ecosystem is created around the new equilibrium that sustains and grows it, extending the benefit across society.