Posted By Barbara Cox,
Monday, February 24, 2014
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Dr. Scott Fredrickson
is a Professor
of Entrepreneurship & Executive Director of the
Entrepreneurship & Innovation Learning Center
It seems to be a repeated pattern that when the
economy takes a downturn, our institutions of higher education see enrollment
increases. Long-time workers find themselves in need of new skills or of
updating their existing ones. Education programs that emphasize job or career
preparation feel the impact and work to provide the most and the best.
Following the most recent major downturn, the pattern held, and colleges were
pressed to move students forward toward new or changed careers, and to do so
with fewer resources to do so.
Interestingly, another phenomenon happened on the
way, one not always seen in the old pattern. Attention came to focus as much or
more on building businesses as on preparing jobs. We needed to create the jobs,
not wait for bandages to bring back the old ones. At the same time, and with
speed we’d not seen previously, emerging technologies, innovation, and the
creativity of a new generation, coalesced to make the possibilities for new
businesses surge forward.
One more phenomenon seems to have been taking
hold, and some will tell you that this one, too, is generational. Maybe it has
been an awakening, an outcome of growing awareness on unprecedented scales. Let
me share a short observation with you. Several teachers of business have
contributed their experience that getting students motivated to plan a business
is a challenge. Some of the most engaged of students would announce their
intention to become wealthy by inventing a new app, or to live "in the fast
lane” by selling "really hot t-shirts!” These teachers now tell me, and I see
it myself, that the current wave of students wants to do something remarkable,
whether minor or great, to help the world. And they want to do it by creating a
business that will do it, and make money down this path. Furthermore, they feed
this motivation by learning about engineering, sustainable agriculture, energy
savings and generation, health sciences, people, technologies … you name the
question. These students want to enter the arena of economic growth by creating
solutions to serious, deep-rooted problems and the businesses to deliver them.
Sustainable Business Models
The concept that describes this business mission
is social entrepreneurship, the development of sustainable business
models to solve chronic social issues. Since the inception of the term in 1980 by
Bill Drayton founder of Ashoka, the largest network of social entrepreneurs
worldwide, social entrepreneurs have developed innovative solutions to many of
society’s most pressing social problems. Social entrepreneurs act as change
agents for society by drawing upon thinking in both the business and non-profit
worlds to develop new approaches to a company’s mission and thus sustain social
value. Finally, after 34 years of being perceived as "charity work,” social
entrepreneurship is coming into its own.
Examples of sustainable businesses with a social
– a combination of Mary Kay and LensCrafters that sells inexpensive reading
glasses across India, China, and Latin America. This business employs local
sales reps using the Grameen Bank micro-finance model that has proven
successful across Bangladesh.
– produces over 250 products from 60 waste streams that would otherwise be
destined for landfills.
manufactures a sleeping bake-like device that warms low-birth babies in
hospitals and clinics in areas that have unreliable electricity and heat lamps
that don’t always work.
Social entrepreneurship can also operate with an
existing business structure. Intrepreneurship is the act of behaving like an
entrepreneur within an existing organization. Finding the collaboration of
social good and smart business as well a meeting the needs of the
community is becoming the new standard against which we judge the health and
worth of a business. Business typically measures performance by accounting
standards of profit and loss. Social entrepreneurs must also use these
standards but take into account a positive return to society. These broad
social, cultural and environmental goals are most commonly associated with
nonprofit organizations. But when embraced by a business organization, can
foster sustainable profits and positive community goodwill.
The "triple bottom line" was first coined by John
Elkington in 1994. He proposed that companies should be measured with three
bottom lines; profit or loss, plus social and environmental concerns.” These
additional two lines would measure how socially responsible the company has
been to their community and the environment.
For example, if a company made a profit, but
neglected maintenance on their storage tanks that eventually burst, polluting a
major river providing drinking water for a large population, and the government
ends up spending taxpayer money on river clean-up, how would this company be
In today’s world, a socially sustainable business
must develop three measurable objectives:
1. Profitability – A business must continue to
make money developing products and services the market deems worthy and protect
2. Socially responsibility – A business must be
aware and respond to the social and community needs of its employees,
customers, other stakeholders, and markets.
3. Environmental awareness – A business must
commit to sustainable environmental practices to ensure the health of the
community, reduce waste, and conserve energy.
In 2013, the state of Michigan launched the Pure
Michigan Social Entrepreneur Challenge. The goal of this public-private effort
was to develop innovative solutions to help solve chronic and social issues
like poverty and hunger by applying sustainable free market models.
was the first state to hold a social entrepreneur competition and was extremely
pleased with over 400 participants and 150 business plans submitted. 10 winners
were selected and coached to pitch their business models to potential
investors. 8 of the winners are currently in the process of obtaining
investments of well over $200,000 from investors and non-profits foundations.
County Social Entrepreneurship Competition
Saddleback College will host the nation's
first county-wide social entrepreneur competition May 10, 2014. Saddleback’s
competition will follow the Michigan model and help entrepreneurs discover
local, organic, and innovative solutions to problems like homelessness,
poverty, and hunger by applying free market, sustainable business models.
Finalists can potentially win over $125,000 in cash, prizes, and chatting
services. In addition, finalists will have a rare opportunity to pitch their
ideas to social impact investors from across the nation with a chance to get
funded upwards of $100,000. The goal of the competition is to educate students
and the community that profits alone are not the only measure of success and
sustainability. Everyone must participate in the social revolution. Learn what
Saddleback College is doing to make a difference.
Social entrepreneurs who wish to participate
should go online to the Saddleback College Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Learning Center at:
Once individuals or teams submit their
ideas, they will be able to access coaches from the Saddleback College network
to help develop their projects and presentations. Online and in-person events
will be offered to further assist participants in refining their submissions
before the final May application deadline.
Triple Bottom Line