Youth Entrepreneurs and the value of combining business and social sector work

In a webcast on Tuesday, as part of the Social Entrepreneur Empowerment Series, Ashoka CEO Bill Drayton shared insight into his feelings about social entrepreneurship. He defined social entrepreneurship in this way; “the most powerful force in the world is an idea in the hands of a great entrepreneur.” I would add that this entrepreneur should be the perfect combination of humility and confidence that allows for them to be open to constantly learning and truly motivated towards change. To Bill Drayton, empathy is a skill that must be learned and with the Ashoka Youth Venture program they hope to create a new generation of entrepreneurs that care about the good of all. In his vision there would be an end to hierarchies and everyone needs to be a changemaker in every society. This idea I completely agree with and think that too often we look only to foreign leaders, big businesses, celebrities and politicians to bring about change. Some of the best ideas for social change are found in the communities facing these issues and in the hands of everyday people. This initiative to prepare youth is exciting and encouraging for where the work of social entrepreneurship is heading.

A strong take away from this conversation was Drayton’s remarks about the Hybrid Value Chain. Corporations and businesses, he stated, often have goals for their work that are traditionally counter to those of the social sector. Their focus on competition and capturing a market is not necessarily easily aligned with the social sectors goals of partnership and performance measurement. Ideally a Hybrid Value Chain would bring the best of business and the social, together into a way that works to bring about change. It is not just a combination but also the creation of a completely new sector and way of bringing about large scale change. It would allow for every human to contribute to the economy and for the world to continue towards becoming a better place for all.

This is a great idea and way to bring together everyone and every type of business into working towards social good. However, like the double bottom line that currently leads the work of social innovation, this Hybrid Value Chain must balance the need for profit that impacts the decision-making in the business sector. What frees those in the social sector to work towards real change is often not profitable and allows them to work on issues for those with the greatest need and the least resources. As this hybrid continues to evolve, research and efforts will need to continue to make sure that the needs of communities and individuals still remains the focus when using the thinking of the business sector.

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