Start a Social Enterprise

Business Planning

Business Planning


Your “product” is a child that learns, a cured patient, or a changed life.

One way to get involved in improving the state of the world is to start a social enterprise. As management guru Peter Drucker said, Non-profits “do something very different from either business or government. Business supplies, either goods or services. Government controls. A business has discharged its task when the customer buys the product, pays for it, and is satisfied with it. Government has discharged its function when its policies are effective. The “non-profit” institution neither supplies goods or services nor controls. Its “product” is neither a pair of shoes nor an effective regulation. Its product is a changed human being. The non-profit institutions are human-change agents.”

Although Drucker wrote that twenty years ago in “Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices,” and hybrid for-profit/non-profit structures have since emerged, the basic premise still applies. If your passion is to start an institution where your “product” is a child that learns, a cured patient, or a changed life, then maybe you want to start your own social enterprise. It’s not necessarily an easy road, and you certainly have to do your due diligence. However, it can be very rewarding.

RESOURCES: If you think you want to become a social entrepreneur and believe that you have a unique idea that solves a social issue, there are resources out there to help you. Here are a few to start:

  • Echoing Green – To accelerate social change, Echoing Green invests in and supports outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions. Through a two-year fellowship program, they help their network of visionaries develop new solutions to society’s most difficult problems. Since 1987, Echoing Green has provided seed funding and support to more than 470 social entrepreneurs.
  • Draper Richards Foundation – The Draper Richards Foundation provides business mentoring and funding of $100,000 annually for three years to social entrepreneurs as they begin their non-profit organizations. They only award six fellowships per year so they can fully engage with their portfolio of grantee organizations. The Foundation was founded in 2002 by funders William H. Draper, III and Robin Richards Donohoe, venture capitalists who have run highly successful funds together and believe in the power of innovation and passionate individuals to change the world.
  • Ashoka – Ashoka envisions an Everyone A Changemaker™ world… a world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change. To accomplish that vision, Ashoka identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs and helps them achieve maximum social impact. It also promotes group entrepreneurship and creates needed infrastructure, such as access to social financing, bridges to business and academic sectors, and frameworks for partnerships that deliver social and financial value.
  • Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship – Headquartered in Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship identifies the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and provides educational support and peer-to-peer exchange opportunities at the national, regional and global levels – including participation in the World Economic Forum events. It focuses on social innovators who are addressing social and ecological problems in an innovative, sustainable and effective way. The Foundation works with Harvard University, Stanford University and INSEAD to provide scholarship opportunities to the best executive education courses in the field to the selected social entrepreneurs. The Foundation also works with the Forum of Young Global Leaders to identify rising social entrepreneurs with a significant impact under the age of 40.
  • Skoll Foundation – The Skoll Foundation invests in social entrepreneurs through the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship. These three-year awards support the continuation, replication or extension of programs that have proved successful in addressing a broad array of critical social issues: tolerance and human rights, health, environmental sustainability, institutional responsibility, peace and security, and economic and social equity. Within these areas, the Foundation is particularly interested in innovators working on climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and Middle East conflict. The Foundation also connects social entrepreneurs with people and resources through a number of academic, business and community channels, as well as spreads their stories through media partnerships. The Skoll Foundation connects social entrepreneurs and other partners in the field via an online community at
  • The New Heroes from PBS – For inspiration, check out The New Heroes hosted by Robert Redford. The New Heroes tells the dramatic stories of 14 daring people from all corners of the globe who, against all odds, are successfully alleviating poverty and illness, combating unemployment and violence, and bringing education, light, opportunity and freedom to poor and marginalized people around the world. As social entrepreneurs, they develop innovations that bring life-changing tools and resources to people desperate for viable solutions.

    Other ways to get involved are by volunteering, donating or making a micro-loan, or expanding your company’s corporate responsiblity activities.

    Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA. Part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series.

    SHARE YOUR VOICE: Do you have other ideas for how people can get involved in making a difference in this world? Do you have a story about starting a social enterprise? Do you know of other good resources for budding social entrepreneurs? Share it here and inspire others to become a New World PWR Broker!

    Photo Credit: Luigi Diamanti /