DOT's 2018 Youth Unconference
3 days, 13 countries, 130 daring young social innovators
So you want to be a social entrepreneur? The good news is that anyone can start a project that earns money, creates a solution to an existing problem, and has positive community impact.
Social entrepreneurs are found around the world and in every industry — but the characteristics that make them successful are similar no matter their location or innovation.
Despite being included in the title of this blog, success is not always a part of social entrepreneurship. Like any business, starting a social enterprise comes with ups and downs. Social entrepreneurs know they must follow many steps before reaching a point of success. But they also know those steps are necessary in order to make a positive difference.
With that in mind, here are five common characteristics of social entrepreneurs. How many do you possess?
Successful social entrepreneurs are passionate leaders of change. They are not satisfied by the status quo and do not believe that the way things have always been done is the way things should remain. A desire to improve the lives of their peers and their community is a characteristic that encourages social entrepreneurs to continue their work.
The definition of community is broad. Community impact can mean coming up with a simple solution for a problem in your district, city, or country. And with the world becoming more connected by technology, the entire globe can be your community, too!
Social entrepreneurs look at situations differently than the average person.
Where some people might think of problems as something that cannot be solved, social entrepreneurs see problems as an opportunity to get creative. They take that problem and innovate in order to come up with a new product, service, or approach to overcoming the obstacle.
Social entrepreneurship is what happens when the creative and the practical become one.
This may seem like a less exciting characteristic, but it is an important one.
A successful social entrepreneur does not just have a good idea — they also have the practical business knowledge to turn that idea into a reality. A social entrepreneur’s solution considers market demand and research, finances, resources, and the restrictions and opportunities in their community and country.
Successful social entrepreneurs also know the importance of data, and gather it at every step of the way, constantly monitoring their impact and looking for ways to improve.
Social entrepreneurs know they are not alone when creating their innovation. The success of projects depends not just on a single strong leader, but the team working with that innovator.
That can involve collaborating with other youth, finding a mentor, or knowing how to talk about an idea with community leaders, local governments, and microfinance institutions. Social entrepreneurs are often global citizens who connect with other aspiring and accomplished social entrepreneurs to share and improve their solution.
Determination is needed for entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs alike.
Social entrepreneurship is about taking smart risks — and sometimes facing failure as a result. But successful social entrepreneurs know that failure is a necessary step in success. Rather than giving up, social entrepreneurs look critically at their project or business and accept feedback, changing it to become better.
Determination is also needed when meeting other challenges, including bureaucracy, lack of capital, and the absence of community or family support.
These five characteristics are not exclusively held by one group of people. Social entrepreneurs are everywhere. Reading this list, are you one of them?