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The Young Face of Social Enterprise

4 August 2010 at 10:26 am
Staff Reporter
Social entrepreneurs are attracted to solving the world’s most difficult problems early in their career, a US survey has found.

Staff Reporter | 4 August 2010 at 10:26 am


The Young Face of Social Enterprise
4 August 2010 at 10:26 am

Social entrepreneurs are attracted to solving the world’s most difficult problems early in their career, a US survey of social entrepreneurs has found.

US Not for Profit organisation, Echoing Green, surveyed over 300 semi-finalists for their social entrepreneurship fellowship, finding the majority of social entrepreneurs are young people (under 35) who are drawn to find solutions to problems they have experienced in their own lives.

The survey found a high proportion of social entrepreneurs are 'serial' social entrepreneurs (having already founded another organisation) who are interested in creating ‘hybrid’ organisations that operate in both the private and public sectors.

The survey found four emerging trends:

Social entrepreneurs are attracted to solving the world’s most difficult problems early in their career.
– Over 55 percent of semi-finalists identified themselves as younger than 35 for the past four years.
– In 2009, young people (under 35) made up 70 percent of Echoing Green’s semifinalist pool.
– Sixty-five percent of 2010 semi-finalists first studied the issue they are working on at University.

Social entrepreneurs are blurring the lines between Not for Profit and for-profit experience and are often serial entrepreneurs.
– In 2010, there was a 15 percent decrease in Echoing Green’s semi-finalists that have worked in the Not for Profit and government sectors as compared to 2008.
– Also in 2010, 49 percent of semi-finalists worked in the for-profit sector or were self-employed, a 13 percent increase over 2008.
– Almost 37 percent of semi-finalists have founded another organisation and over 71 percent of those organisations are still in existence.

Social entrepreneurs are on the forefront of innovative organisational structures.
– In 2010, over 37 percent of Echoing Green’s semi-finalists structured their new venture as hybrid organisations; almost a 20 percent increase from 2007. A hybrid organisation is a body that operates in both the public sector and the private sector, simultaneously fulfilling public duties and developing commercial market activities.
– In the same period, semi-finalists starting Not for Profit organisations have decreased by almost 20 percent.
– The percentage of for-profits has remained steady during the same period, slightly increasing to about 8 percent.

Personal formative experiences often compel social entrepreneurs to work for change.
– In 2010, almost 40 percent of semi-finalists identified themselves as members of the community they plan to serve.
– 57 percent were first connected to the issue they are working on through a personal experience.
– Over 60 percent have spent extensive time living or working with the population they hope to impact.
– Over 98 percent say they would continue to pursue building their organisation even without support from Echoing Green.

Echoing Green is a US based Not for Profit organisation providing funding and support for emerging social entrepreneurs, primarily through a two-year fellowship program.

In 2010, Echoing Green received over 1000 applications for their social entrepreneurship fellowship – with 327 selected as semi-finalists. These semi-finalists took part in the survey, with the results compared against data from surveys conducted in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

According to their own website, Echoing Green has invested over $28 million in seed funding to over 471 social entrepreneurs and their organisations.


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