SEATTLE — Social entrepreneurship applies practical, innovative and sustainable approaches to benefit society. This type of corporate philanthropy targets poor, marginalized people. It is a business model that fights economic and social problems by focusing on issues such as education, health, welfare reform, human rights, workers’ rights, environment, economic development and agriculture. This model involves generating a product or service with a goal of maximizing reach, but not accumulating wealth. In addition, any profits made are generally reinvested in the expansion of the business.
One example of social entrepreneurship is the Access Program by Novartis. This initiative focuses on making essential and life-saving treatments available and affordable to in-need populations. A pilot program was kicked off in 2015 to supply 15 patented and generic medicines for the cost of $1 per month in Kenya and Ethiopia, by collaborating with local governments and NGOs. The long-term goal of this program is to expand to several countries and make the business self-sustainable over time by selling high volumes.
The Novartis Access Program is a classic example of changing corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy models. However, one doesn’t need to be a Fortune 500 company backed up by funds sufficient to invest in large-scale social business models. There are several examples of corporate philanthropy and social entrepreneurs who have the drive for change and are willing to take risks in hopes of transformational benefit to the society while providing employment opportunities for the local community.
Listed below are five examples of some of the most influential and successful social enterprises in 2016:
- Silulo (Employment): Founded by Luvuyo Rani in 2004 in rural South Africa. This enterprise currently has 40 branches that train approximately 5,000 students per year in Information Technology. More than 50 percent of the trainees found regular employment.
- Envirofit (Clean energy): Founded by Ron Bills in the United States. This company sells smart stoves to enable families to cook safely whilst significantly reducing energy consumption. The company currently serves about 5 million customers globally.
- The Clothing Bank (Women empowerment): Founded by Tracey Chambers. This company provides unemployed mothers training to become self-employed businesswomen. They recruit unemployed mothers every year from rural townships of South Africa. They currently have about 1,250 graduates who generate a collective income of $2.5 million for their families.
- Daily Dump (Waste management): Founded by Poonam Bir Kasturi in India. The Daily Dump sells aesthetically designed composters for wet organic waste with about 30,000 current users. In addition to selling composters, Daily Dump is actively involved in educating and spreading awareness in waste management in communities.
- Goodweave International (Child labor): Founded by Nina Smith. Goodweave International operates in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. The organization offers certified “child labor free” rugs to about 120 global brands. This initiative reduced the number of child laborers by 80 percent amongst the current carpet manufacturer supply chains relieving a total of 220,000 children.
These are a few examples of social entrepreneurs. But there are others who have found social conditions around them or in their field as unsatisfactory and took immediate action. Today, their ideas have fundamentally transformed the lives of several thousand of people. Social transformation is often a result of powerful connection and collaboration between innovators, agitators, thought leaders and those who hold levers of power in business and government.
– Dheeraj Vadlamudi