Collaboration in Civic Spheres

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Is All Entrepreneurship “Social”?

by Matt Rosenberg March 11th, 2010

Ashoka, a prominent global non-profit focusing on social entrepreneurship, identifies some archetypal social entrepreneurs:

Susan B. Anthony fought for Women’s Rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead adoption of the 19th amendment. Vinoba Bhave (pictured, left) was founder and leader of the Land Gift Movement, he caused the redistribution of more than 7,000,000 acres of land to aid India’s untouchables and landless. Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori approach to early childhood education. Florence Nightingale was founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions. Margaret Sanger was founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she led the movement for family planning efforts around the world. John Muir was a naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.

Ashoka says social entrepreneurs are about “creating solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur comes up with new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.” The vitally important work of people such as Vinoba Bhave, John Muir or Florence Nightingale was both social and entrepreneurial, true. But cannot traditional entrepreneurs also contribute mightily to addressing social problems? Writes Carl Schramm in the Stanford Social Innovation Review: