Posted by: Nathaniel | July 10, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship thrives in minority groups, reports UK-based Social Enterprise Coalition

A diagram of the “third sector’ in Europe from the UK National Council for Voluntary Organizations

The Telegraph reported today on a new study released by the Social Enterprise Coalition. The study finds that Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority communities have higher rates of social entrepreneurship than white people, and that “while women are only half as likely as men to be mainstream entrepreneurs, they are equally or more likely than men to be social entrepreneurs.”

The article is interesting for a bunch of reasons:

1. The obvious reason: the results of the study themselves. Like traditional entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship is, at its core, about identifying a need or gap and finding a better (as in, more effective, efficient, fun, innovative, creative, etc.) way to fill that gap. While its wrong to assume major ethnic and gender divides in people’s capacity to creative problem solve, its probably reasonable to recognize that in many situations, the economic and social implications of being in a minority group would engender a different perspective and outlook that could be conducive to experimentation with new solutions to old problems. Some of the best, most sustainable community development programs in the states, for example, tend to be driven by the creative ideas of participants experiencing the problems, rather than benevolent outsiders.

2. The language: the fluidity with which the people quoted in the article interchange “social entrepreneurship” with “social enterprise.” The language for describing what exists between traditional for-profits and traditional non-profits is all over the place. The variations tend to carry implications for the both the legal set-up of organizations as well as how it prioritizes the creation of financial vs. social/environmental value. Jed Emerson and his “blended value” projects are a great place to start to learn more about this. Its something we’ll continue to come back to on this blog. The UK is clearly comfortable with the language of social enterprise and the focus on businesses that build social value creation into their mission.

3. The institutional support: Its awesome and forward looking that the UK has an “Office of the Third Sector.” Formed in early 2006, the Office tries to engender an environment for a “thriving third sector (voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, cooperatives and mutuals), enabling the sector to campaign for change, deliver public services, promote social enterprise and strengthen communities.” Particularly important, in the long run, will be having a standing office tor,  help explore and update the laws that regulate charities and nonprofits, in order to accommodate for the changing ways in which social value is created.

Hat-tip to Ashley from JustMeans for posting the article.

What do people think about this article? Is it surprising? Not surprising? Why?

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