20.11.2015 in Entrepreneurship, Latest by copaceticweb 0

Social Entrepreneurs: those who ‘dare-to-do’ for their Society

“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.”

― Bill Drayton, Founder & CEO of Ashoka

With this definition,  Bill Drayton has perfectly captured what a Social Entrepreneur does, which is to disrupt the status quo and transform it into a more sustainable one through their revolutionized thinking. Social Entrepreneurship thus is the process of discovering and exploiting opportunities that would create social change. The use of the term social change may create a confusion as to whether a Social Enterprise is a Not-For-Profit business -for those who are muddled by this, the answer to it is ‘no’. A Not-for-Profit business functions with the objective of improving the society, where as a Social Enterprise functions with the objective of making profits and finding novel and innovative methods to improve the society.

  “Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world.” (http://archive.skoll.org/about/what-is-social-entrepreneurship/)

One such Social Entrepreneur who found a way of improving his society through an innovative Microcredit service is Professor Muhammad Yunus. The inception of this service came out through a research project carried out by Prof. Yunus during his tenure at the University of Chittagong, in order to study on a viable credit delivery system in order to provide banking services to the poor in rural areas. This lead to the creation of ‘Grameen Bank’ in 1983, this was authorized as an independent Bank by the Bangladeshi legislation.

At a glance, his business model may seem similar to that of a Bank or money lender, however Bangladesh’s predatory lending requires collateral in order for a person to receive such a loan or any other form of a credit facility, and as a result many of the poor in rural areas refrain from taking such loans. However, for those who are able to provide collateral to obtain a loan from such institutions, found that they pay an interest rate of 10% per day and more than 3000% per annum. This microcredit service has contributed for the eradication of poverty, which has been identified as one of the main factors that weighs down economic growth in developing countries, thereby improving the society through innovative solutions for providing credit facilities to the poor. His efforts were further recognized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee where Prof. Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

 “I am not opposed to making profit. Even social businesses are allowed to make profit with the condition that profit stays with the company; the owners will not take profit beyond the amount equivalent to investment. Social business is a new category of business. It does not stipulate the end of the existing type of profit-making business. It widens the market by giving a new option to consumers. It does not intend to monopolise the market and take the existing option away. It adds to the competition. It brings a new dimension to the business world, and a new feeling of social awareness among the business community.”

- Prof. Muhammad Yunus (http://www.muhammadyunus.org/index.php/social-business/social-business).

Minhaj Chowdhury, the co-founder and CEO of Drinkwell, an organization which provides water filtration systems to the poor in rural areas of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos where there is a high concentration of arsenic and fluoride in the water systems, especially in wells. Even though he was born and raised in the United States of America he is of a Bangladeshi descent, and as a result the issue of arsenic poisoning through water consumption has always been a matter close to his heart, as many of his family members and family member’s friends have lost their lives due to this. This influenced him in co-founding this organization which uses a micro-franchise model where it provides water filtration technology and business tools to locals. The reason for empowering locals as their own change makers is due to the statistics provided by the UN, where it had stated that 50% of all projects fail because communities cannot and have not assumed responsibility when it comes to the maintenance and repairing of water systems. The organization has expanded beyond Bangladesh, and continues to social progress by creating access to clean safe water using a self-sustaining business model.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ being one of Expolanka’s core values, has always strived us to carry out sustainable innovative activities. One such innovative entrepreneurial activity is our collaboration with HelpAge Sri Lanka (HASL) to provide microfinancing services for senior citizens to engage in entrepreneurship programmes. The main idea behind this is to provide a balance to the social environment as the share of workers who are younger than 30 years is significantly shrinking, while the share of workers older than 50 years is increasing. This was introduced to create a more inclusive environment for Senior Citizens who wish to start their own businesses but is not provided with this opportunity as they were being discriminated based on their age. As a part of this, we established Senior Citizen Committees (SCC) in regions and provided them with the necessary training in self-employment activities, accounting, advocacy, lobbying and many other relevant areas that would help them to successfully carry out their operations as a value-adding citizen in the society.

Furthermore, Venture Engine, a project by Blue Ocean Ventures and Indian Angel Network with Expolanka as its Platinum Sponsor, was recognized at the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards (AREA) 2014. This project focuses on providing budding entrepreneurs with necessary funding, mentoring, and information that can be utilized by them to turn mere startups to successful, self-sustaining business ventures that will have a ripple-effect on the society.

Our goal is to create a culture where all entrepreneurs are bold enough to ‘dare-to-do’, be it in technology, marketing or in creating a positive impact on the society and the environment as a whole. We continually encourage individuals to be pioneers in transforming their society  by daring to do more for their growth and the betterment of the society. And Social Entrepreneurship may be one such outlet that they can express their energy to be doers in a dynamic environment where innovation is key.

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