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Are You a True Social Entrepreneur?

Are You a True Social Entrepreneur?
Credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Social entrepreneurship can be difficult to define. While most generally agree that social entrepreneurship involves the pursuit of some social good and less of an emphasis on the creation of private wealth, there has not been a way to determine whether a business is socially motivated or not.

To solve this problem, Shawn Carraher, Ph.D and a clinical professor at the Naveen Jindal School of Managementat the University of Texas at Dallas, recently developed an 11-point scale to help entrepreneurs determine what level of social entrepreneurship they're engaged in.

"People can go through the scale and actually identify whether or not they are social entrepreneurs," Carraher said. "There are a lot of individuals who aren't really sure exactly what they want to do; this helps them to identify what they're really interested in."

Carraher, who has developed similar scales concerning general entrepreneurship, said social entrepreneurs are more than just small business owners with a dream of giving back. Instead, there are a number of traits that set social entrepreneurs apart from regular small business owners. If just one item of the scale applies, Carraher said, an entrepreneur might just be starting to engage in social entrepreneurship; conversely, if all 11 criteria apply, then the entrepreneur is indeed running a robust social operation.

"The real difference tends to be whether you're creating social value, not just private value, but the other items get into how far along you are into the development of being a social entrepreneur," Carraher said. [See Related Story: Starting a Socially Responsible Business: How to Make It Work]

According to Carraher's scale, here are the factors that make someone a social entrepreneur:

  1. Adopting a mission to create social value (not just private value).
  2. Recognizing new opportunities to serve your mission.
  3. Engaging in a process of continuous adaptation related to your mission.
  4. Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand in the fulfillment of your mission.
  5. Relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve your mission.
  6. Caring deeply about the outcomes created by the fulfillment of your mission.
  7. Seeking to be a ‘world changer’ through the accomplishment of your mission.
  8. Adopting a mission to sustain social value (not just private value).
  9. Engaging in a process of continuous innovation related to your mission.
  10. Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served by your mission.
  11. Engaging in a process of continuous learning related to your mission.

For entrepreneurs interested in becoming social entrepreneurs, but uncertain of how to take the first step, Carraher advised setting goals for yourself and taking action to achieve them.

"If you don't take action or move forward, you never really become an entrepreneur, and it's the same with social entrepreneurship," Carraher said. "A lot of people wish to be one but are unwilling to take the risk to move forward. You actually need to take action, set some goals, identify who you need to work with, and identify what you need to know so you can develop yourself as a social entrepreneur."

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and Business.com, Adam freelances for a variety of outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.