The Social Enterprise: A Global Revolution

We are in the midst of an increasingly rich and multifarious discussion on the role that social enterprises play in spearheading innovation, tackling social issues and driving development.The interesting part about this debate is that it is not restricted to sector, country or hemisphere – but seems to have infiltrated all kinds of discourse across all kinds of forums.

It must be observed that the social enterprise movement is a truly global one. Many entrepreneurs are not just scaling up within their enterprises but sharing their ideas on a broader platform such that they are replicable in other contexts and geographies. International institutions such as the World Economic Forum and the European Union are prioritizing this movement on their agenda. Governments are putting their heads together to evaluate how they can contribute.

Even though the very ethos of a social enterprise is in the bottom-up approach of local solutions to local problems, the sweeping wave of social entrepreneurship as a worldwide phenomenon is what gives it particular relevance and potency. It means, in other words, that as a solution model it is universally applicable. What must not happen, as some experts have warned, is that these enterprises should not become detached from their key mission and grassroots communities as they grow bigger and more profitable.

Even big business is dipping a finger into the pie. They are beginning to include social enterprises in their supply chains and establishing social funds. This kind of access to networks, markets and resources are ultimately what will keep social enterprises afloat. Although social entrepreneurs might start out on a high note, they require mentoring and need to be able to tap into the expertise that exists, to ensure they are not swallowed. The global-ness of this movement creates more opportunities for these kinds of collaborations.

Collaboration between all these different actors – business, public sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists willing to invest – will inevitably show itself as the key to the success of the social enterprise movement. To make this happen, infrastructure for sharing on an international scale will have to be developed. Exciting times ahead.