Three hundred young leaders assembled last week at an Americans for Informed Democracy mini-summit in New York City to discuss Social Entrepreneurship and Global Change. The general consensus was that the recent growth of social venture capital, micro-finance, non-profit tech companies, and other forms of social entrepreneurship was opening up exciting new opportunities for young people to do well and do good at the same time.
One participant called it a way for our generation to fulfill our desire for „all-at-onceness“ – a drive to have both a good, dependable job and a meaningful social impact on the world around us.
While participants overwhelmingly believed social entrepreneurship offered innovative new ways to do good, some had concerns about the field. There was a lot of debate about whether the drive for social change might get lost as social entrepreneurship becomes more institutionalized. A lot of participants were particularly concerned about whether corporate social responsibility was just noise and good publicity without real impact and whether cause marketing was actually distracting people from the policy change at the center of many of today’s most troubling inequalities.
A recent piece from Abroad View called Social Consciousness for Sale sums up the concerns quite well.
This leads to a number of important questions for our generation to sort out, especially if we believe in the power of social entrepreneurship:
• In what ways does social entrepreneurship connect with policy change?
• Can it be a force to catalyze social change? Might it sometimes be a distraction?
• How does social entrepreneurship stay pure to its mission of maximizing social change and avoid the danger of co-optation by companies that may want to get the benefits of a positive reputation without actually investing significantly in improving lives and making a social difference?
Join Seth Green, president of Americans for Informed Democracy, in the conversation