Entrepreneurs share their opinions on ‘social entrepreneurship’


Is there a need to differentiate between ‘social entrepreneurs’ and ‘other’ entrepreneurs? We’ve asked the community at Venture Capital for Africa, the largest online community connecting African entrepreneurs and investors. Opinions differ a lot, below are the results so far. You can still vote in the poll for one more week.

“Social entrepreneurship” can be defined as “recognizing a social problem and using entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a social venture to achieve a desired social change”. ”Business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, but social entrepreneurs also take into account a positive return to society.” (Wikipedia)

So is there a need to differentiate between ‘social entrepreneurs’ and ‘other’ entrepreneurs? 70 votes were cast in our poll so far. The results show that opinions differ a lot: there is not one dominant view. Of all votes made 54% indicated ‘yes we should differentiate between ‘social’ and ‘other’ entrepreneurs’ and 43% indicated ‘no we should not differentiate’. Different reasons were chosen.

“Yes: Some entrepreneurs want to create social value, others want personal profit. Let’s make this explicit” got the most votes: 29% of the total. But second came “No: You don’t have to be a social entrepreneur to have a positive impact”, with 23% of all votes.

“Yes: Social goals should get more attention as a guidance for business decisions” got 17% of all votes. But 19% said “No: To be able to achieve any social results, you have to focus on financial success”. 9% said “Yes: Social entrepreneurs will be more successfull in the long run”.

Respondents from Africa are leaning more to the ‘yes-side’ than respondents from other continents. While of all votes 54% went to ‘yes’ answers, against 43% to ‘no’ answers, in the votes from Africa we see 62% went to answers indicating ‘yes, we should differentiate between ‘social’ and ‘other’ entrepreneurs’, against 24% to answers indicating ‘no, we should not differentiate’.

Out of all 70 votes so far only one person voted for the answer “No: The goal of an entrepreneur is to make profit. Someone with social goals is therefore not an entrepreneur”. This indicates there is agreement that pursuing social goals does not disqualify you as an entrepreneur. Someone even added to the answers: “No [there is no need to differentiate]: The goal of an entrepreneur is to add value. Someone with social goals is therefore an entrepreneur.”

In reaction to the poll, Lidia Varbanova writes from Canada: “The history shows that great entrepreneurs are never motivated only by making profit – they solve a social problem, commercialize an invention that helps people, contribute with part of their profit to philanthropic causes. All efficient entrepreneurs should consider social goals and values when starting up their businesses”. She mentions that it is important to achieve positive return in the long run. “Sustainability in all its dimensions matters for the entrepreneurial ventures which have strategic orientation – and an important dimension of sustainability is the social one!”

Wilson Ndungu writes from Kenya: “All people should understand about entrepreneurship”. About ‘social’ and ‘other’ entrepreneurs he writes: “it’s a good idea to combine the two.” Matthew Ocholla , also from Kenya, adds: “Both are important”.

What is your opinion? Is there a need to differentiate between ‘social entrepreneurs’ and ‘other’ entrepreneurs? Feel free to share your thoughts in the poll and in the comments below. You can still vote in the poll for one more week. To take next steps together with other entrepreneurs on VC4Africa interested in this theme, you can participate in VC4Africa’s Social Entrepreneur group, or check out other VC4Africa groups.