Social Entrepreneurship: Doing Business with Social Impact

It is not easy to avoid the common track of business as usual and to launch out on the social entrepreneurship path. It takes a lot of courage, entrepreneurial skills and, most important, a certain ”social sensitivity” providing a keen eye for people and their needs.
Courage – because social enterprises usually have a strong innovative feature in terms of strategy, products, services, production process and marketing. And ”social sensitivity”, because social entrepreneurs are able to identify endemic social issues, marginal population categories and dysfunctionalities that inspire them to create business models integrating solutions and mitigation of local or global challenges.
They often creates new jobs for disadvantaged people, contributing to social cohesion, employment and the reduction of inequalities.

The time is now
Social entrepreneurship is an important part of the European Commission growth strategy. It is seen as a business practice that seeks to serve the community’s interest (social, societal, environ­mental objectives) rather than profit maximisation. It offers a business model that harmoniously combine financial, social, cultural and environmental needs.
Governments and public sector are giving more and more attention to social entrepreneurship, but there is still a lot to be done. In Romania, the concept of social entrepreneurship is still new. Although there is a huge potential for social entrepreneurship initiatives, the entrepreneurs face the lack of a clear legal and regulatory framework. Another major challenge is the lack of funding opportunities: bank loans are difficult to obtain and they are excluded from the public procurement processes.  

Education is the key
Young people have a crucial role in bringing social entrepreneurship on the public agenda and helping it flourish. They have energy, creative thinking, digital skills and they could harness the potential of a new business approach.
But in order to do that, they need to have basic financial and business knowledge, as well as a general understanding of social entrepreneurship context, tools and opportunities. In spite of the increasing interest and accessibility of entrepreneurship education, social entrepreneurship remains isolated almost exclusively to university courses and programs.
JA Romania is one of the few organizations in the country who have included social enterprise initiatives in its activity, with the largest outreach in the field. While the response from students and teachers proved enthusiastic, we observed that the level of awareness or understanding of social enterprise methodologies remains very low, pointing to an increased need to provide both teachers and students with new tools and materials, adjusted to age-appropriate levels of complexity.
The social economy is still at a developing stage and the social entrepreneurship business model needs to gain relevance and consistency. There is still a lot to do in order to create a sustainable context for social entrepreneurs and education has a crucial role in creating tools and helping people discover their inherent drivers and motivation for social entrepreneurship projects.