How Do You Become a Social Entrepreneur?

A social entrepreneur is a person who:


  • Acts as an agent for change – drives social innovation and transformation
  • Pursues poverty alleviation goals
  • Exhibits entrepreneurial zeal
  • Utilizes business methods in new and innovative ways
  • Courageously overcome traditional practices and thinking
  • Builds strong and sustainable organizations
  • Focuses first and foremost on social/ecological value creation
  • Optimizes financial value creation for social benefit
  • Seeks out new products, services, and/or approaches to social problems
  • Continuously refines and adapts to community needs
  • Combines the characteristics of Richard Branson and Mother Teresa

“Social entrepreneurs are mad scientists in the lab. They’re harbingers of new ways of doing business.” – Pamela HartiganDirector of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University

Common characteristics of a social entrepreneur:

  • Belief in the innate capacity of all people to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development
  • Driving passion
  • Practical but innovative approach to solving social problems
  • Dogged determination
  • Zeal for measuring and monitoring performance

Many of the characteristics and traits outlined above also describe the highly competitive and dogged determination exhibited by MBA students. A healthy impatience and high expectations, coupled with the training and experience of a Masters of Business Administration degree can catapult what once was simply an idea into the realm of reality with high social impact. Business schools are taking note of the increasing desire of students to marry business and philanthropy in a more meaningful way by incorporating social entrepreneurship into their programs, giving many students the skills they need to put their ideas into action. Measurable results proving social enterprises can be both profitable and socially effective have encouraged business schools to provide electives, experiential learning in local and remote communities, and certificates concentrated in public management and social innovation to their students.

socialenterprise-gearsAccording to John C. Whitehead, a former Goldman Sachs senior partner and member of the board turned course advisor at the Harvard Business School, a social entrepreneur trained in practical business ways of thinking has an even greater possibility for impact in social enterprises than in traditional ones. Business schools can give people with world-changing ideas the skills to be successful business leaders. The skills learned in these programs include: business, people, management, financial-analysis, IT, etc.

Graduates, such as Xavier Helgesen, chairman of Better World Books, note that the atmosphere and environment of business school is an added bonus to the experience because it brought like-minded individuals together to create and innovate. Business schools offer clubs, competitions, global experiences, and Centers designed to teach students specific social enterprise-focused goals. The MBA is becoming increasingly more versatile and is held by many leaders of well-known social enterprises such as:

  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • Acumen Fund
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Center for Applied Philanthropy
  • Children’s Cancer Research Fund
  • World Vision
Previous Chapter

Previous Chapter

A Brief History of Social Entrepreneurship

Next Chapter

Next Chapter

Steps for Starting a Social Enterprise