By Shaivya Sahare:
Entrepreneurship is considered a key factor in reshaping economies all over the world. As the Government of India comes up with more schemes to support entrepreneurs, with even the Prime Minister agreeing that innovation is the key to growth, India continues to witness the huge shift towards an entrepreneurship business model. And out of over 50 million purpose-full businesses, there exists a group of altruistic individuals whose main concern is not their business’ turnover, but making a social change in the society. This group of people are the social entrepreneurs.
As Lewis Thomas puts it, “Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.” However conflicting the idea of altruism is in the face of survival of the fittest, it has managed to cultivate itself in all species, as it is the true way to survive as one. And social entrepreneurs are an excellent example of exactly how important it is to give, before you get.
Social entrepreneurship is the practice wherein individuals come up with innovative solutions to social problems. A proper definition is still in the making, but a large part of it is concerned with giving back to the society in one way or another.
“Social entrepreneurship is the most practical aspect of environmental science,” says Sanchi Singh who is currently pursuing Masters in Environmental Science in New Delhi. Having worked on a number of different projects ranging from community work to upcycling, Sanchi has a positive outlook on how social entrepreneurship can impact growth of a society. Sanchi also works as a Volunteer Environmentalist at an environmental organisation Earth5R. “We are not doing any charity, but we are working towards improving people’s livelihood so that they can earn for themselves.” Thus social entrepreneurship provides a way for combining a social mission with business activities.
Justin Morris from UK, who is a social entrepreneurship intern at Earth5R explains the project he’s currently working on. “We conducted a customer survey and asked 2 questions: Do you know if company X is involved in promoting sustainable changes? Would you buy an artistic rag doll if it was available at Company X’s store to promote sustainability?”
Rag dolls are sustainable items that are made out of waste cloths obtained from the clothing industry that would otherwise have been dumped in landfills. “The entire point of conducting the survey was to bring attention to sustainability and collect evidence that people would be willing to contribute towards social change” says Justin while talking about the rag dolls project. These dolls are made by the local communities, people living in the slums, largely women who need jobs to earn a livelihood. Earth5R trains these people in doll making skills.
The dolls are hand stitched as these women cannot afford to buy sewing machines. By having people buy these rag dolls at a company store, the women can now earn a livelihood for themselves. Here we see a perfect example of an innovative idea that helps in minimizing waste, promoting local economy, thereby saving the environment in its own way by recycling waste cloth.
Companies in India are yet to take a real step towards their corporate social responsibility (CSR). A lot has been done in making the Indian entrepreneur realise their role in addressing social issues, but a sincere approach is easily lacking. However, as more individuals like Sanchi and Justin rise to the opportunity and work towards sustainable development, there’s still hope for our species.
“In the beginning, don’t think about making a huge impact. What’s important is that you start. Don’t wait around till you come up with a perfect plan. Start small, improvise later” – is Sanchi’s advice to the budding social entrepreneur. As focus shifts from Unicorn companies to small businesses, perhaps we can shift our focus from the revenue generated to the lives impacted instead. Perhaps in a few years we’ll have ourselves a brand new buzz word that would describe not what a company is valued at, but how many billions of people’s lives it has improved.