What if you could make the world a better place through your business?
The truth is that you’re not alone. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management has found that millennials in particular harbor a desire to “use their skills for good.” The study claims that 94 percent are interested in using their skills to benefit a cause, as opposed to working for the sake of making money.
This points to a greater uptick in social entrepreneurialism, which has seen great deals of success in the last few years. These businesses aren’t to be confused with non-profit or volunteer organizations — these are full-blown for-profit businesses that also aim to address global issues.
Forbes recently ran an article by MeiMei Fox detailing why social entrepreneurialism is the new business model, and a lot of great points are made.
Purpose: Social entrepreneurs live and work with purpose. It’s not just about what business you do or what product you sell, it’s about why you do that business and sell that product. Not only do social entrepreneurs tend to have a grasp on their purpose, but they can help others discover and fulfill their own purpose as well.
Demand: Today’s consumers want social entrepreneurship. They might not call it that, but more people are interested in products and services that align with their values than not. You see today that even investors are interested in backing more issues that concern human interest, such as student housing, which is currently piquing institutional interest.
Motivation and Lasting Happiness: When you’re doing something that fills you with purpose, that helps others find their purpose, and that the world genuinely wants and needs, it’s much easier to stay motivated and happy in your job. Varun Chandra, creator of Corporate360 mentioned this in the article with Forbes: “My biggest happiness so far in life is being able to go back to the village where I was born and ‘adopt’ it.
When I first made money, I traveled to 32 different countries and bought everything that I had ever wanted, but I realized that I still wasn’t happy. I found real, lasting happiness through my social impact work. At the same time, it makes me feel more responsible for working hard to build the business so that I can contribute even more. It’s a win-win situation, and I enjoy it to the fullest.”
If you’re looking to get into social entrepreneurship, you’ll have to understand that giving back to the world in a substantial and truly unique way requires more than simply donating money to a noble cause. If you’re looking to stand out and become both a savvy business person and a champion of social issues, you’ll have to develop a certain set of skills. Ohio University’s online program lists seven that are essential for social entrepreneurs to acquire:
1. Recognizing Unjust Social Issues. It might seem obvious, but social entrepreneurs begin by recognizing a problem. A good example would be Muhammad Yunus, who saw the problems the impoverished people of Bangladesh were having when it came to securing any amount of credit at all. Instead of being able to secure loans through a banking system, they were instead forced to accept loans with extremely unfair rates from local, predatory money sharks.
2. Identifying Business Opportunities. Not only does a social entrepreneur recognize a problem, but they also recognize a business opportunity within that problem. He created the Grameen Bank, which charged interest on small loans and then used the money he made from that interest to fund more loans.
By helping to stimulate the economy in the area, he was able to not only create a successful business for himself but also provide the assistance that others needed in creating their own business.
3. Inspiring Change Through Participation. It’s not necessarily enough to just come up with a great idea. Grameen Bank used Yunus’s own funds as well as his expertise in finance to help others secure loans. Use your skills and time to further the cause your business is dedicated to, and more people will do the same. There’s no better way to convince others than by displaying your own conviction.
4. Taking Direct Action. This is similar to inspiring change via participation, but it also means learning new skills and making new connections to keep your business running. “Direct action requires direct engagement,” writes the Ohio University online program.
“Most often, that involves establishing organizations, networks, and infrastructures to enact the changes that social entrepreneurs want to see. It also involves working on the ground directly with affected communities—perceiving and understanding what it is they need and taking action to help.”
5. Public Speaking. To get people on board with your mission, you’ll need to develop effective public speaking skills. You need to be able to illustrate your vision, explain why it is imperative, and ultimately to motivate the listener into action. The trick here is that people want to believe in something — they want to support a good cause just as much as you do.
If you’ve ever heard Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action, you’ll remember that he believes people “don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. It’s your job to convey the ‘why’, and ultimately people will flock to your product because they believe in it, you, and what it all stands for.
6. Fighting Adversity. Social entrepreneurs wouldn’t be needed if the world was perfect to begin with. However, there are a lot of problems out there, a lot of social ills, and a lot of people that need help fighting the good fight. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it — but it’s not, and that’s a reality that every social entrepreneur needs to come to terms with. Facing adversity means being able to come up against a challenge with passion and pragmatism, to continue trying even after failure, and to face the next challenge once the first one is complete.
7. Creativity. Much like adversity, if it was easy to create a solution to all of the world’s problems, we wouldn’t have them in the first place. Nevertheless, social entrepreneurs need to be able to harness creativity and innovation to find ways around today’s obstacles.
The world needs more social entrepreneurs because they care about the cause behind their business just as much as they care about the business itself. These are the people who are going to change the world — are you one of them?