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What is Social Entrepreneurship?


Social entrepreneurs pave avenues of opportunity for those who would, otherwise, be locked into lives without hope. Learn more about social entrepreneurship and the Skoll World Forum, and hear why their innovations are the most promising solutions to global problems. This video features past Skoll World Forum luminaries such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank), Jaqueline Novogratz (Acumen Fund), Bill Drayton (Ashoka), Sally Osberg (Skoll Foundation) and many more.

Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world. By identifying the people and programs already bringing positive change, we empower them to extend their reach, deepen their impact and fundamentally improve society.

They range from Jim Fruchterman of Benetech, using technology to address social problems such as the reporting of human rights violations, to John Wood of Room to Read, helping underprivileged children through literacy. They include Marie Teresa Leal, whose sewing cooperative in Brazil respects the environment and fair labor practices, and Inderjit Khurana, who teaches homeless children in India at the train stations where they beg.

Such rare individuals, throughout history, have introduced solutions to seemingly intractable social problems. From Florence Nightingale to Muhammad Yunus, their paths are always imaginative and inspirational. Yunus, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, began offering microloans the impoverished in Bangladesh in 1976, empowering them to become economically self-sufficient. He proved a microcredit model that has been replicated around the world.

Social entrepreneurship has gained renewed currency in a world ever more divided between haves and the have-nots. They distinguish themselves from other social venture players by doing, not talking. They are relentlessly focused on impact.


  • Ambitious: Social entrepreneurs tackle major social issues, from increasing the college enrollment rate of low-income students to fighting poverty. They operate in all kinds of organizations: innovative nonprofits, social-purpose ventures, and hybrid organizations that mix elements of nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
  • Mission driven: Generating social value —not wealth—is the central criterion of a successful social entrepreneur. While wealth creation may be part of the process, it is not an end in itself. Promoting systemic social change is the real objective.
  • Strategic: Like business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs see and act upon what others miss: opportunities to improve systems, create solutions and invent new approaches that create social value. And like the best business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs are intensely focused and hard-driving in their pursuit of a social vision.
  • Resourceful: Because social entrepreneurs operate within a social context rather than the business world, they have limited access to capital and traditional market support systems. As a result, social entrepreneurs must be skilled at mobilizing human, financial and political resources.
  • Results oriented: Social entrepreneurs are driven to produce measurable returns. These results transform existing realities, open up new pathways for the marginalized and disadvantaged, and unlock society’s potential to effect social change.

Want to learn even more about what makes a social entrepreneur?

  • Discover current jobs in the social enterprise / social entrepreneurship space
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Discover and contact other social entrepreneurs and professionals

With close to 2,000 practitioners in the social enterprise / NGO / philanthropy space, the Skoll World Forum Contributor Directory is a valuable resource where you can find and contact people working in different issue areas and countries.


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