cultural entrepreneurshipWhat are the differences between social entrepreneurship and cultural entrepreneurship? Is it worthwhile to have a separate classification for each?

We (Courtney Martin and myself) began exploring these questions in this recent Stanford Social Innovation Review piece. An excerpt:

Social entrepreneurs solve problems by disrupting existing systems, as microfinance has, or through breakthrough product design, like the solar powered lights from d.light design or Barefoot Power. Cultural entrepreneurs, on the other hand, solve problems by disrupting belief systems—using television shows like Glee to initiate viewers into the disability or GLBTQ rights frameworks or the Twitter campaign #mensaythingstome, designed to expose anonymous misogyny online.”

We think this distinction is important because it can help generate increased support and funding for cultural entrepreneurial work. Shifts in beliefs and attitudes don’t occur overnight; highlighting cultural entrepreneurship as its own field encourages funders and supporters to use a more holistic approach when thinking about metrics and impact.

When the article was published, it elicited a range of thoughtful responses. In February, we decided to gather a group of innovators to continue the conversation in person. Some key insights (you can watch a clip here & read the synthesis here):

●      Labeling has the power to attract funding and talent. When “social entrepreneur” became an established term, the field began to attract more attention from funders, innovators and the media.

●      Many attendees whose work involves creating cultural change felt that the distinction between social and cultural entrepreneurship would be useful in explaining the value of their work to supporters.

●      In order to unlock capital from potential donors, you must create clarity. Does “cultural entrepreneurship” make things clearer or more confusing?

●      By promoting the practice and concept of cultural “entrepreneurship”, are we perpetuating the notion that small government creates a better society? The term “entrepreneurship” takes the focus away from holding governments accountable for creating better policy.

We are thrilled to have the opportunity to push the conversation further with the Social Edge community. We would love to know the following:

●      Do you think the cultural/social entrepreneurship distinction is useful?

●      How does one measure impact when the goal is to change hearts and minds?

●      Given that so much of cultural entrepreneurship deals in creating story and art with a social message, how do we facilitate this without interrupting the organic creative process?

●      Since culture shifts are to a large extent dependent on changing the hearts and minds of influencers within a community, how do you identify who the influencers really are?

Social entrepreneurship or cultural entrepreneurship? Both? Join Lisa Witter, Partner and Change Chief Officer at Fenton, in the conversation.