Social Entrepreneurship - A 2001 Challenge
22 January 2001 at 12:01 pm
Social Entrepreneurship is the new buzz phrase that encompasses a “movement” that has already taken hold in the US and the UK and is only just in its infancy in Australia.
And the experts say it offers a new and urgent challenge for the Australian corporate world and the Not for Profit sector.
The term takes in several descriptions such as the application of business principles to social organisations, individuals who are entrepreneurs by nature pursuing social goals with the same vigour as financial entrepreneurs, and applying venture capital principles to social ventures.
Perhaps more simply it is linking the business world with the social world!
Corporate community investment specialist, Anthony Lupi from Positive Outcomes in Sydney says Social Entrepreneurship is an established and growing movement in the US.
A recent visit to the States gave him a close up look at three organisations: The Entrepreneurs Foundation, The Centre for Social Innovation at Stamford University and 4charity.com.
Lupi says the model used by The Entrepreneurs Foundation has great application potential in Australia.
It was founded in 1998 to tap into the Silicon Valley wealth to strengthen local communities. It targeted the new start up dot.com companies with a minimum donation of $100,000 US. The Foundation applied the principles of venture capitalism to its social ventures involving youth and education with good success.
Anthony Lupi says this model is “an idea waiting to happen” in Australia particularly with investment banks, for example, having demonstrated their venture capital knowledge and a social conscious.
He says areas such as South Melbourne in Victoria where all the new technology and dot.com companies have congregated in the one council of Port Philip is ideal for operating a similar model to The Entrepreneurs Foundation.
Another aspect of this movement in the US is the setting up of Centres of Social Innovation within the Graduate Business Schools of all the major Universities.
Lupi says it is important to teach young business leaders social responsibilities as part of their normal MBA training.
He says Australia has only one similar school within the Faculty of Arts at Deakin University and the challenge is to get this training into the Australian Graduate Business Schools.
Those already entertaining the Social Entrepreneurship model here include The Body Shop, Jack Heath from the Inspire Foundation, Nick Frances from the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence and the Smith Family and Pro Bono Australia.
Lupi says the Smith Family is using the model to re-invent or its organisation.
The Smith Family’s National Program Manager, Dr. Rob Simons says the organisation is in fact engaged in far more than a branding and repositioning exercise.
Dr. Simons says it is using Social Entrepreneurship to bring about a new kind of organisation that can be innovative in addressing the problems of “disadvantage” and bring about societal change.
He says the Smith Family, as a social enterprise, reflects the developments in the US where social enterprises generally mean the application of business principles to Not for Profit organisations.
He says reinventing the Smith Family is a reflection of the “stakeholder theory” that emphasises harnessing the capabilities of individuals and communities rather than simply asking for financial and material assistance for the disadvantaged.
The Body Shop’s Trade Development Manager, Alex McDonald says now is the ideal time for Australians to deal with Social Entrepreneurship because the current and aging service delivery models are not working.
McDonald says Australians are generally not good at being entrepreneurs; they are good inventors and have good ideas but are not risk takers.
He says currently a lot of programs and services are reliant on government assistance and safe traditional models instead of wanting to invest in models that could make a real difference.
He says The Body Shop is using Social Entrepreneurship to resource communities to create their own future. Its homeless project to sell the Big Issue magazine allows these people to build a self-sustaining industry that they are part of.
He says the old system of seeing the client base as the problem instead of an opportunity, and seeing money spent as a cost rather that an investment, must change.
The challenge to take up Social Entrepreneurship will be discussed at a two-day conference in Sydney on the 15-16 February.
Vern Hughes from the Hotham Mission says the conference will explore the issues as well as launch a network of social entrepreneurs who are looking for an enterprise solution rather than a traditional welfare/charity or even a sponsorship solution.
Guest speakers include Noel Pearson, Andrew Mawson from the U.K, Nick Frances from the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence, politicians Tony Abbott and Cheryl Kernot, Peter Kenyon from the Centre for Small Town Development, Mark Bagshaw from IBM and Geraldine Skinner from the Community Business Partnership.
For conference registration forms e-mail Vern Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org. or you can check out the conference web site at www.social-entrepreneurs.conf.au