Rapid Rise in the Popularity of Social Entrepreneurship

“Social Entrepreneur” is #1 on the list of Philanthropy’s 10 Favorite Buzzwords of the Decade, and “Impact Investing” is not far behind at #4. The article states, “In 2000 few people had ever heard of social entrepreneurs. Many would have defined a social entrepreneur as a very friendly business leader. A decade later, Kiva’s founders are on Oprah, PBS, and NPR, universities offer degrees in social entrepreneurship, and U.S. presidents both present and past laud social entrepreneurs.” The article continues on to  estimate that the impact investing marketplace, created in 2008, will grow to “$1-trillion in opportunities by 2020.”[1]

How did this new sector of social business become so popular in such a short amount of time? 

  • Tireless work of socially-minded leaders such as Jacqueline Novogratz and Muhammad Yunus. These two have dedicated their lives to their social businesses and have not only created social change on a very large scale, but have brought the lessons they learned and stories of impact to the public in a number of popular novels.  Banker to the Poor and Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism are two of the many books Yunus has written to share the story of the creation of the Grameen Bank and the lessons he has learned from a lifetime of social entrepreneurship. Novogratz, founder of Acumen Fund, one of the pioneers in impact investing, published The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World to share her stories of creating social impact.
  • A new class of socially minded, ethically driven university students. Programs are popping up in universities all over the U.S. that focus on social entreprenuership and impact investing. Tulane, Duke, and Yale are three of the many university with these types of programs. In addition, fellowship programs such as Ashoka Fellows, Frontier Market Scouts, Acumen Fund Global Fellows, Echoing Green Fellowship, and many more are growing and becoming increasingly popular for young professionals.
  • Technology has created a much greater awareness of social problems. The entire world is connected via the internet and people are not afraid to voice their opinions. Social businesses are utilizing social media to spread their messages as far and wide as possible. In addition,socially focused online publications such as the Stanford Social Innovation Review have been created, well-known business reviews such as the Harvard Business Review has been publishing an increasing amount of articles about social entrepreneurship, and other popular online newspapers such as the Huffington Post have created entire sections devoted to social business.
  • Impact Accelerators are helping social enterprises develop and grow. Agora Partnerships and Village Capital are two of the many accelerators that run programs to help early-stage social enterprises develop their business model, grow, and find investment. Both company’s have dedicated teams of scouts who have uncovered thousands of social enterprises around the world and are providing them with the support necessary to make a large-scale impact.
  • Big name companies are becoming players in the impact investing world. Some of the biggest names in the corporate world, Shell, Ebay, and Rockefeller have channeled a portion of their profits into socially focused projects and investment funds, the Shell Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Rockefeller Foundation. These organizations have supported social projects both financially and logistically and have provided capital that has allowed countless social entrepreneurs to pursue and expand their impact-focused businesses.


[1] http://philanthropy.com/article/Philanthropys-Buzzwords-of/125795/?sid=&utm_source=&utm_medium=en