Why Defining “Social Entrepreneurship” isn’t a Total Waste of Time
Lauren Gardner, COO
I recently read a post by a good friend and former classmate titled “Why Defining Social Entrepreneurship is a Waste of Time”. Suneet’s point is that for the most part it doesn’t matter if you (or other people) use the term social entrepreneur – it just matters if you’re making an impact. That summary doesn’t do his article justice and I recommend reading it in its entirety. Although I do largely agree with Suneet I want to build on one point he didn’t touch on.
After working with the large number of undergraduate volunteers that serve here at the Emily K Center I have a theory about the importance of defining the term “social entrepreneurship”. I agree with Suneet that once a person is being a social entrepreneur it doesn’t matter how we define it, however while we’re educating the next generation at our universities it’s very important.
The people who are going be the future change-agents are the energetic, passionate, and driven young people with significant talent. These are the same young people that are encouraged by parents, peers, and societal pressure to be the best doctor, lawyer or CEO and follow other traditional paths to “success”. What does defining, teaching, and advocating for social entrepreneurship do? It makes it a valid, noble, and prestigious way for these students to define their career path as they leave school. It allows them to explain to their parents why they didn’t take that corporate job. It lets them tell their peers about Wendy Kopp and how they’re going to transform their idea into a national movement like Teach for America. It validates their decision to pursue a career and life with a mission.
In my opinion, even if this is a little bit of the hubris Suneet talks about, it is also infusing us with a whole generation of talent willing to take a different path and in the long-run that is going to create major social change.