Definitions, definitions, definitions. So much fun… If you say any word about 20 times in a row, really fast, it messes with your brain, the word starts to sound funny and it makes you think about where the word comes from, why it means what it means and what it means to you personally. So when it comes to defining social entrepreneurship we have to step back and really think about what we are describing.
I think back to the time when I first heard the words “social entrepreneurship” It was over a year ago, sitting in my kitchen… I was struggling to define and understand some of my own passions, desires and goals in my career and life. I was talking with a friend (Ben Gong) about how to have a fulfilling life, solve problems, use business to do good and make real impact in the lives of others, and really just give back in some way. Once I had somewhat articulated some of these thoughts he looked at me and said, “Social Entrepreneurship!” It was the first time in my life I had ever heard the term, and at that moment I didn’t quite understand what it meant. Before long I would discover that those words and their evolving definition would, in many ways, describe all the thoughts and passions I had been trying to harness.
As I have become more and more involved in this budding space I have come to realize that the definition is open and ever-changing. I believe that we should try to define it as best as possible with what we have but also be open to constant changes.
I first thought of Social Entrepreneurship as strictly business models that solve social problems. But the more I thought about that the more I realized I then have to really understand what business means, what social problems mean and how innovation plays a role in the connection between them. Through different experiences, like working at the Academy for Creating Enterprise in Mexico City this past summer, getting to know people like Jeremi Brewer, Jason Fairbourne and Steve Gibson, listening to TED talks and being involved in the Ballard Center my view of this space has been expanded and broadened. I think the root of the definition still rests on society’s social problems and the innovative solutions that “Champions” create to solve them. But, now I’ve realized that there is much more to it than that.
More than anything, coming to grasp the idea of Social Entrepreneurship has changed the way that I look at “giving” and “service”. I try to think more along the lines of “Empowering” While my definition is always growing and changing I really think that it means creating lasting change in people’s lives and using new solutions to fix old problems as well as using old solutions to fix new problems and everything in between.
I think we need to clearly define it as best we can so we can clearly communicate our purpose to others. But we don’t have to pretend like we understand it perfectly in order to go about doing good and effecting real change. We have to be capable of accepting new additions to our own definition.