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#1 Small Steps, Big Impact Von Petra Zlatevska

26.05.2016

This three-part blog series, curated especially for NATIVES, explores the rise of the social entrepreneur, profiles a Berlin-based social business and illuminates the future of this way of working.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE – ACCELERATING POSITIVE CHANGE 

In the last few decades, people and governments have realised the potential and power of social enterprise and social entrepreneurs to create momentous social change. Following in the footsteps of the first social entrepreneurs, such as British nurse and the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale or French diplomat and founding ‘father’ of the European Coal and Steel Community (the forerunner of the European Union), Jean Monnet, social entrepreneurs are individuals with cutting-edge, even radical solutions to society’s most pressing social, health, financial and humanitarian problems. They are visionaries, but also realists, who exist in that space between classical entrepreneurship and charitable work.

Yet what differentiates them from ordinary entrepreneurs? A good dose of idealism, no less. And that can’t necessarily be a bad thing.

They want to improve the world, rather than their bank balance. While similar to a charity, in that their business runs using a not-for-profit model, a social enterprise differs from a charity in its operational structure: charities exist from mostly private donations, are not organised or managed like a “business” and are often operated through religious organisations.

According to a 2013 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, the social enterprise sector currently employs over 14 million people in Europe, which equates to around 6,5% of the European Union’s wage earning population.

But who or what are social entrepreneurs?

The European Commission has defined a social enterprise as being “an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives.”

“Social entrepreneurship to me means making a difference through entrepreneurial work – if your work has a social impact or offers a social return on your business investment, then you are a social entrepreneur,” says Andrea Kolb, Founder and CEO of ABURY, a Berlin-based social enterprise, which is at the forefront of preserving the ancient knowledge of age-old handicrafts on the brink of extinction in remote villages in Morocco and Ecuador.

Part two coming soon.

This article was written by guest author, Petra Zlatevska.

View the full OECD report here.

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