The new generation of entrepreneurs have a strong attraction to social entrepreneurship. These entrepreneurs are providing innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. It’s a way for entrepreneurs to feel the resonating impact of doing something good for the world while turning a profit.
But while the number of social entrepreneurs has grown rapidly in the past decade, their efforts are scattered and often fail to reach critical mass. It’s not due to a lack of enthusiasm, however; instead they often simply forget to apply their private-sector knowledge to the nonprofit world.
Applying private sector know-how in a nonprofit world
A big part of fulfilling a social entrepreneurship mission starts with an actionable plan. After all, any venture’s success hinges on being able to carefully define a realistic goal.
I’m passionate about easing the heavy impact of chronic diseases around the world, so naturally I’ve given a lot of thought to this. But despite my gusto, I’m still just one person.
So, for example, I linked up with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, to convene global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Right away, I was able to connect with people who are experienced in solving problems on a global scale. But more than that, I was exposed to its unique model, where people are driven by their commitment to action — a focused, defined assignment that they develop strategies around.
Steps to social entrepreneurship
My exposure to CGI has made all the difference. Here’s a look at common steps that every social entrepreneur can take to start changing the world.
1. Commit to action.
As a social entrepreneur, you have to define your goals so you can realistically implement them. In my experience, good intentions (great intentions, in fact) that could change communities for the better are always there. But when ideas are too big or don’t address a very specific need, good intentions just aren’t enough.
An action plan needs to be more than just a rubber stamp. You need rounds of analysis of the geographic region and its regulations to find the optimal solution.
2. Assess the need.
Constantly evaluate what’s missing. Brainstorm different pain points from various communities across the globe. You might find that you’re passionate about poverty in India, or that you’re passionate about helping a local homeless shelter.
Either way, make sure to validate your idea through data and research. The issue should be prevalent, the scope of the project should fall within your budget and energy level, and the community should be truly interested.
My work has shown me that the Internet and the availability of information can often accomplish a large part of the mission.
3. Identify the cause of the problem.
Now that you’ve figured out what is missing, ask yourself why it’s missing. If there’s already a solution in place, why isn’t it working? Does the problem lack a business or procedure to deliver the solution? Assessing where the problem stems from will uncover fitting solutions.
In my case, I knew chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, yet the current global response to the epidemic just isn’t cutting it. That’s when I knew I wanted to devote my time to this cause.
4. Understand the history.
How has the problem been addressed before? Sometimes, opportunities are time dependent. The historical record may suggest solutions that haven’t worked in the past, but may work now or could be altered.
5. Forge healthy partnerships.
Don’t underestimate strength in numbers. Make sure to garner enough support from the community to make the project viable.
Creating a new system requires a strong alliance of talented individuals and businesses. By reaching out to community members — those who will benefit from the solution and have something to contribute — you’ll strengthen your social venture.
There’s no doubt in my mind that pairing up with CGI was the right move. The organization broadened my global vision and helped me understand how I could play a major role as a philanthropist.
As a social entrepreneur, you’ve learned how to innovate and use whatever tools you need to succeed in the for-profit world. Bring those along on your journey to foster a better planet. The ways you can make a difference are as numerous as the problems that need solutions.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO-International, a California and Beijing based intellectual property management company that focuses on the exploitation and management of the intangible assets regarding in situ regeneration in applied medical and health promotion systems (human body regenerative restoration science). They operate in over 73 countries and hospital networks worldwide, and are opening a whole new era of bio-economy.
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