What would an ideal social entrepreneur look like? Would s/he have a degree like MBA, have a good level of business experience, or have design thinking skills… perhaps many more. Many would argue for a proper working definition of social entrepreneurship, but an inclusive definition is rarely questioned.

There are many debates around the working definition of social entrepreneurship, and perhaps the first prominent person we all acknowledge is Professor Alex Nicholls from Said Business School, Oxford University. He has published over 50 academic articles on social finance and social entrepreneurship, and has also co-edited a book called Social Finance, the world’s first comprehensive book on the topic of social finance.

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[Photos: Oxford University and Oxford University Press]

Along with Prof Nicholls, there are many other scholars and development practitioners that are concerned with inclusivity of the term “social entrepreneurship”. We often hear social entrepreneurs on spotlight with an MBA or business experience in prominent companies such as McKinsey etc, and events and forums on the topic of social entrepreneurship are generally held in “Anglo-Saxon” countries – where speakers are also from these countries.

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In fact, such phenomenon implies the pre-eminence of the “Anglo-Saxon” mindset, and its predominant presence in conferences and academic literature. The CEO of ClearlySo, Rodney Schwarts equates this as an “Anglo-Saxon imperialism”, excluding participation by, and representation of, people living in countries in Africa, and people without finance experience and/or MBAs. This further limits innovative, diverse ideas of social entrepreneurship. Some argue that “the true social entrepreneurs are ghosts that never claim the glory for themselves…because…their lives do depend on it…You don’t find them in congresses, seminars and forums…They live for it and by it.” (Gomez, cited in Unite for Sight) Entrepreneurs in developing countries do have assets – farmers have land and knowledge, and tradesmen have tools and skills, but their voice remains unrecognised due to geographic locations, the need for qualifications, and the lack of access to technological marketing networks.

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Is this an appropriate environment to enhance the ecosystem of social enterprises? It is true that there is the process of due diligence to ensure accountability for investment. But we also need to ensure diversity of voice and talent to further enhance innovation.

So the question would be – what do we need to achieve that?

Reference materials

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