Most consider these to be distressing times – and rightly so. But for the entrepreneur there are also abundant opportunities. Maybe even more opportunities than during "good times". With "bad times" comes a lot of new needs to be adressed, many of them social. And from earlier days we have a number of ecological needs that have been unmet – or plainly ignored.
This opens an exciting new "marketspace" for entrepreneurs. A combination of social and ecological needs with the accumulated experience of market thinking in the business world.
Enter the social business. Best seen as a hybrid between the profit maximizing business, the public sector, the philanthropy and the NGO. Some call it an emerging fourth sector.
Social businesses already exist in large numbers but are largely unseen. They are not publicly traded and do not get much media coverage. Not that they necessarily all are small. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has well over 70,000 employees and had helped many many millions out of poverty.
The social business has five key elements as expressed by Fast Company co-founder Alan Webber:
- Elegant business model
- Socially driven
So, these are real businesses. The key difference to a profit maximizing business is that it will not pay out profits to stockholders. These will instead be reinvested in the business to achieve it's mission – often formulated as tackling a specific social or ecological problem.
I'll be writing more about social businesses here. Let me for now leave you with this short introduction and my main point – social businesses will increase radically in numbers over the coming years. They might even surpass traditional business.
The age of the social business is here.