By / Anne Sophie
Social entrepreneurship is an emerging global trend that focuses on an entrepreneurial approach to solve social problems. The old dichotomy between “it’s a business” or “it’s a charity” progressively disappear to move on to a new business model that combines capitalism with compassion to create a fairer world. In some ways, it is a combination between Richard Branson and Mother Teresa!
A social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital i.e. measuring gains in terms of social satisfaction instead of measuring performance of profit and return. Thus, whether it is for-profit or non-profit, the main goal of social entrepreneurship is to target social and/or environmental issues. However, this approach does not necessarily rule out the possibility of making a profit.
Social enterprises share certain common characteristics. The first is innovation and transformation that can be in the form of new products and services, new production and distribution methods, or new organizational models. The second may be values as social entrepreneurs are primarily driven by passion and want to offer social equality, dignity, access to opportunity, transparency, accountability, and empowerment. Another key characteristic is the involvement of, or emphasis on youth. These characteristic stems from the fact that the younger generation is associated with the desire for independence and self-actualization, and wants to be part of the community/world by incorporating a sense of responsibility.
Zooming in on the MENA region, social entrepreneurship can be an alternative solution to traditional entrepreneurship as the increasing number of youth has the ability to impact and transform their environment. It provides a ‘middle path’ that can balance the desire to contribute to rapid economic revitalization and social reconstruction.
In Qatar, there are many local initiatives such as Silatech, a social enterprise set up in 2008 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser that connects young people in the Arab region with work opportunities; as well as the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) launched in 2009 also by Her Highness, which is an international, multi-sectoral platform for creative thinking, debate and purposeful action.
According to Silatech, the region has experienced the world’s highest rate of population growth over the past 50 years, creating substantial employment challenges.
Numbers indicate that more than 28% of Middle East population is aged between 15 and 29, representing over 108 million young people. This translates to roughly 100 million working-age young adults that are expected to enter the labor market over the next twenty years. However, there are limited avenues to make changes in the Arab world, which are working with public, private and civil society sectors to promote large-scale job creation, entrepreneurship and access to capital in the region.
To further this cause, WISE dedicated one of its sessions to social entrepreneurship, and they chose Ashoka1, a global organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs; specifically individuals with innovative and practical ideas for solving social problems.
Moreover, the high visibility of social causes through social media has garnered attention and motivated an aspiring young generation to make a significant impact. The next step of social entrepreneurship might be the benefit corporation2 and its use as an innovative form. Current trends and statistics suggest that benefit corporation may become more than just a niche option. It is interesting to note that 72% of young adults entering the labor market are looking for a job where they could ‘make a positive impact’.
To support and empower local initiatives, we at QBIC encourage social entrepreneurship and below are three examples of QBIC startups that can be considered sustainable, innovative and practical:
Just Grow is an initiative that provides user-friendly aquaponics system that requires minimal maintenance from consumers. The objective is to help customers garden indoors in a hassle-free environment.
Al Marbat aims to provide a cost effective and environmentally friendly service, carried out in a sustainable approach by offering horse recycled bedding.
Kinecto provides a revolutionary way to wirelessly charge devices, anytime and anywhere.
If you also want to make a positive contribution towards building this movement of social entrepreneurship then join us, share your creative ideas and watch them turn into reality. Log on to www.qbic.com to know more.
- “A benefit corporation is a new corporate form designed to address two of the most common problems social entrepreneurs face when trying to start a company: (1) that traditional “C” corporations are legally required to pursue maximum shareholder value, potentially at the expense of all other stakeholders, and (2) that many large corporations have adopted the language of social impact to disguise and distract the public from very unethical behaviors (a.k.a. “greenwashing”), which has the added effect of crowding out legitimate social enterprises from the market even though a majority of consumers would prefer to spend their money on sustainable products and companies.
The first defining characteristic of a benefit corporation is that all benefit corporations must incorporate a social purpose into their charter”. Michael Vargas is co-chair of the ABA Joint Subcommittee on Social Entrepreneurship and Social Benefit Entities, and a business and securities attorney at Rimon, P.C. in Palo Alto.