Many people around the world are calling for an “entrepreneurial revolution” to fix social and economic problems. This call naively assumes that more entrepreneurs are needed to address these issues. Increasing the number of entrepreneurs, however, is not as critical as persuading entrepreneurs to improve their societies through growth, innovation and social transformation. The revolution should be one of transforming contemporary entrepreneurial culture to make it more socially minded.
Entrepreneurs are known for creating new ventures that creatively solve problems. This basic definition, I believe, has to be expanded to conceive of entrepreneurs as powerful agents of cultural change capable of transforming their societies. This does not mean taking time after work to address social issues. It means consciously incorporating social goals into entrepreneurs’ strategic thinking as a means to maximize personal and collective benefits. It demands getting rid of the paradigm that only governments and established companies are capable of addressing social needs. Entrepreneurs, who operate closer to the people, are in a perfect position to identify and to tackle critical problems, such as poverty and the lack of access to health and education.
Contemporary societies are demanding more efficient and socially interconnected ways to satisfy their necessities. To make this happen, entrepreneurs must understand that, by establishing new ventures that aim both to create economic prosperity and to spur social development, they are ensuring their long-term sustainability. More developed nations translate into platforms for larger growth and even internationalization.
Changing entrepreneurial culture requires not only redefining the role of the entrepreneur in society, but also offering incentives for employees to be innovative within their organizations. These entrepreneurial employees (also known as intrapreneurs) should also be encouraged to further the larger social goals pursued by the organization.
In my experience, managing a fast growing organization, having a social agenda as a fundamental part of our strategic plans, and letting employees know that they are key elements for innovation and change has propelled our success in a business and social way. It is one of our most important differentiators.
Should there be a difference between the terms social entrepreneur and entrepreneur, or is it a matter of re-definition?
Dr. Andrés Simón González-Silén is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Grupo Venemergencia, a conglomerate dedicated to provide health services in Venezuela. Fundación Venemergencia, his non-profit organization, trains paramedics and establishes voluntary emergency medical brigades in shantytowns, as a means for developing a sustainable model of emergency care for vulnerable communities.
Photo Credit: The Hub Lausanne