What is Social Entrepreneurship?

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the world’s leading organization for measuring harmonized levels of entrepreneurship in over 80 countries, defines Social Entrepreneurship (SE) as:

“First, we view social entrepreneurship as a process of creating value by combining resources in new ways. Second, these resource combinations are intended primarily to explore and exploit opportunities to create social value by stimulating social change or meeting social needs.

And third, when viewed as a process, social entrepreneurship involves the offering of services and products but can also refer to the creation of new organizations”. (See Lepoutre, Justo, Terjesen, & Bosma, 2012).

Attention to “social entrepreneurship” has increased significantly in the developing and the developed world. Social enterprises are endorsed by a growing number of political and business leaders across the world and many organizations (e.g. Ashoka, Aspen Institute, the Skoll Foundation and the Schwab Foundation), events, awards, and celebrations highlight the heroic efforts of social entrepreneurs.

GEM research developed a taxonomy of four categories of entrepreneurship ventures based on the extent of focus on social and commercial goals: (1) Pure social entrepreneurial activity (where the individual launches or runs a social organization that has no commercial activities); (2) Pure commercial entrepreneurial activity (where the individual launches or runs a commercial organization that has no particular social goals); (3) Overlapping social and commercial entrepreneurial activity (where the individual launches or runs one and the same organization that is both commercial and social in nature); and (4) simultaneous social and commercial entrepreneurial activity (where the individual launches or runs both a social and commercial organization which are different entities).

What defines a Social Entrepreneur?

Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues (health, education, poverty, prejudices, disabilities etc.) and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.

Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

Social entrepreneurs often seem to be possessed by their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of their fields. They are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical implementations of their visions, above all else.Each social entrepreneur presents ideas that are user-friendly, understandable, ethical, and engage widespread support in order to maximize the number of local people that will stand up, seize their idea, and implement with it. In other words, every leading social entrepreneur is a mass recruiter of local change makers—a role model proving that citizens who channel his/her passion into action can do almost anything.

For the first time in Forbes’ 94-year history, it recently assembled the Impact 30: a list of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. Forbes defines “social entrepreneur” as a person who uses business to solve social issues. Forbes identified the following social entrepreneurs:

Jordan Kassalow: An optometrist by training, Kassalow now runs an organization that sells ready-made reading glasses to people in the developing world.

Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun: Founded D.Light Design which manufactures inexpensive lamps and sells them in communities that don’t have reliable electricity.

Tom Skazy: The Princeton drop-out created Terracycle which sells fertilizer and over 250 products made from 60 waste streams.

Jane Chen: Her company manufactures a sleeping bag-like device called the “Thermpod” which warms low-birth weight babies in hospitals and clinics that have unreliable electricity and heat lamps that don’t always work.

There are 70,000 ‘social enterprises’ in the UK employing around one million people. The sector’s contribution to the economy has been valued at around £18.5bn. More than half employ people disadvantaged in the labour market, including the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders and disabled people.

The Independent On Sunday, a leading British newspaper, has created a Happy List recognising people who enrich the lives of others, included a man who has served breakfast to the homeless for the past 10 years, and a nun who provides shelter for sex workers in central London.

The IoS also sponsored the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2013 to recognise outstanding individuals who work, support, or volunteer for a business that trades for the ‘common good’.

The Barbados Experience

The concept of Social Entrepreneurship is relatively new in Barbados, however Barbadians have benefitted significantly from the efforts of Social Entrepreneurs (SE) over the years and will continue to do so in the future as Government’s resources are stretched and social needs increase.

In recent times we have seen some outstanding efforts to help make Barbados an even better place to live for the common good through Social Entrepreneurship initiatives. These social entrepreneurship efforts represent a great spectrum of activity, from pure social entrepreneurship to a focus on commercial efforts.

1. Addiction Treatment

The Substance Abuse Foundation/Verdun House.

Rehabilitation of persons suffering with the disease of addiction. Foreign philanthropists, local private and corporate donations, Government grants and self-generated business income from farming and other services provide funding.

An experienced volunteer Board of Directors provides leadership. Professional, contracted employees provide management.

Working closely with the Ministry Of Health and partnering with Hazelden Foundation in the USA and Clouds House in UK to improve Institutional competencies through training and on-site inspections.

2. Entrepreneurship Development

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation

Creating an ecosystem to support and develop entrepreneurial businesses and unleash latent indigenous commercial business skills with a vision to make Barbados the #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020. Island-wide free wi-fi access is a key mission (now 80% completed).

Led my experienced volunteer entrepreneurs and professionals and funded from private donations and grants and partnerships with several local stakeholders. Focuses on start-up finance, business facilitation, mentorship, education/talent development and Government Policy. Volunteers and a project manager facilitate execution.

CEO Damian McKinney and his organization McKinney Rogers have facilitated the initial three years of operations by providing office facilities and financial support.

UK based Board member Derek Browne has brought his Entrepreneurs In Action programme to Barbados to educate young people about enterprise in an effective classroom to boardroom methodology.

3. Environmental Conservation For a Sustainable Society

The Future Centre Trust

A charitable Non Governmental Organisation which focuses on the environment of Barbados and its resources and methods by which the community can take a greater role in conserving and preserving these resources for now and future generations. Their Mission is: “To stimulate awareness and encourage responsible management of the vital relationship between people and their environment leading to a sustainable future for all”. Their overarching goal is “to raise awareness of the need for sustainable ways of living while providing suggestions and solutions to achieve this change”.

FCT’s efforts are enhanced by several for-profit re-cycling entrepreneurial enterprises commercializing solid waste management.

4. Heritage and Cultural Tourism

The Barbados National Trust

Protecting the significant built and natural heritage of Barbados and leveraging them as tourism attractions.

An example is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, an outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well- preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Great Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire, and the extraordinarily well preserved Garrison of St. Ann’s Fort and some 100 structures on 141 acres, across Carlisle Bay. Both private and public interests are combining to leverage the potential of this and other heritage assets for the benefit of all through the positioning of Barbados as a heritage and cultural destination. This drives tourism activity creating jobs and earning foreign exchange through heritage related arts, craft, cuisine, tours and entertainment, such as weekly ceremonial Changing of the Guard.

5. Creative Industries

Speightstown Enhancement Fund Trust

Using art as a catalyst for investment in and development of Speightstown, a beautiful but neglected old port and whaling centre in the north of the island once known as Little Bristol.

Driven by entrepreneur Pierre Spenard, the huge trompe l’oeil, Bridge Of Tides heritage- depicting mural by famed artist John Pugh of California supported by local artist Don Small overlooks Speightstown beach. It is a significant tourist attraction in the north of Barbados, drawing attention to this historical port town as a heritage tourism opportunity. Funded by entrepreneurs and other donors and managed by experienced volunteer and commercially driven Trustees.

6. Poverty Alleviation

The Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society established by young Barbadian entrepreneur Kemar Saffrey, to assist people living in need on the street in Bridgetown and environs. Kemar’s work was recently recognized when he won a Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work. Funded by donations and fund raising initiatives.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul 

Providing sustenance for the poor

Marina Laurie of Our Lady Of The Rosary Church is a passionate Social Entrepreneur who devotes her life and energy to this cause to relieve the suffering of the poor in the community. Funding is through donations and creative fund-raising efforts. Marina’s
motto is ‘someone’s junk is someone’s treasure’.

7. Education, Health, Sports and The Arts

The Maria Holder Memorial Trust

This Barbados Registered Charity is engaged in Barbados supporting a broad range of charitable initiatives including projects in education, the health sector, for the relief of poverty and also with programmes that assist with the arts and sports.

The Trust is currently working with The Ministry Of Education to provide a chain of six nursery schools. The Trust’s internal processes are very entrepreneurial.

Trustee Michael Russell comments:

“There is very little difference at the end of the day in the processes we go through to evaluate an application for a donation that a commercial enterprise would not also follow. Our objective is different but also the same. We want to know that the donation will create a social ‘profit’ and enhance social ‘capital’ while of course a commercial enterprise wants to see the same but in a commercial way. So if we are to be successful in our efforts we have to be as disciplined and critical as the most aggressive project management team in the commercial business world. Indeed sometimes our actual execution is identical. For the six schools programme we have hired a full professional team and they, with our oversight, will be tasked to ensure every aspect of the project is executed to the highest standard and that at the end each school is built strictly within budget and dead on time. I don’t think a commercial property team would behave any differently.”

In conclusion, the opportunity for Social Entrepreneurship in Barbados and the wider Caribbean is huge as there are many unmet social needs crying out for attention. We must identify these areas where the potential exists for enhancing the ‘common good’ and engage Social Entrepreneurs with the passion to execute the changes.

About the Author

Peter N. Boos
Peter N. Boos - Chairman Emeritus, Ernst & Young Caribbean

Chairman Emeritus Ernst & Young Caribbean (since 2004); Founding partner Business Barbados publication (1999) and the Barbados business web portal BusinessBarbados.com (2009); Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO Substance Abuse Foundation Inc. (1996 to date); Founding Sponsor (2009) and First Chairman (2009-2014) Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation Inc.; Founder of the Peter Boos Foundation (2004), (supporting youth development, entrepreneurship, education, addiction treatment, environmental protection, arts & culture development, relief of poverty and support of various community and charitable causes); Founder, Patron and first chairman ASPIRE Foundation (Barbados) Inc. – ‘helping charities help’ to strengthen and expand the Barbados Third Sector (2014 to date).