Revamping Social Entrepreneurship

01/01/2021 07:53 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
By :
Oswald Timothy Edward

In Budget 2021, the government will conduct a social enterprise development programme with an allocation of RM20 million to the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and selected agencies. It is believed that the allocation will further encourage the development of social enterprises, and aid in improving socio-economic welfare and community building.

Unfortunately, social enterprise is still seen traditionally as in the saying “Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Therefore, "charities" or "welfare associations" will pop up in their mind if they were to be asked about social enterprises. I would argue, “Give a man the tools and resources to create a fishing business, and his whole village can thrive for generations.” That is the main idea behind social entrepreneurship.

Social needs

Social entrepreneurship is primarily designed, besides corporate creation, to meet the social needs not yet achieved by the government and/or by the trade sector. Unlike a capitalist market economy, which advocates the achievement of strictly financial objectives, social entrepreneurship is part of solidarity logic which prioritises social cohesion.

Therefore, social entrepreneurship should be seen as “using systematic entrepreneurial models to create and manage organisations with a mission for social change”.

Social entrepreneurship encompasses processes related to the discovery of opportunities which aim at creating social wealth and the organisational processes developed and used to achieve the desired results.

Concept of social entrepreneurship

Ideally, the concept of social entrepreneurship should emphasise to the existence of two basic components:

- the discovery and exploitation of business opportunities through the review of new problems not yet explored or completed by traditional organisations;

- the creation of a social value for the needy.

Social entrepreneurship, which aims at catalysing a social change by providing basic human needs in a sustainable way, could then be a key driver for sustainable development.

Advocating a sustainable development which respects the human rights and cares about a reasonable use of resources, social entrepreneurship refers to the treatment of complex social and wicked problems.

Unemployment, crime, problems of drug addiction, poverty, social exclusion ... are negative externalities caused by commercial legitimate or illegitimate activities and calling, therefore, for the development of innovative solutions and mechanisms.

Sustainable development is often presented as a goal of social entrepreneurship. Its achievement must necessarily include people, and particularly entrepreneurs, who facilitate, through their behaviours, motivations and initiatives, the transformation of a problem, an opportunity, or a dream, in one or more viable organisations.

Entrepreneur as the forerunner

Consequently, we suggest looking into the understanding of the entrepreneur as the forerunner of a socially responsible activity. Thus, all the social entrepreneurs should make it a priority to renew and strengthen social cohesion and solidarity.

Compared to the traditional entrepreneurs who see problems from a purely economic view, social entrepreneurs draw more potential in their personal experience and learn to handle the social problems. This is due to their strong convictions, their openness to others and their pragmatism which enable them to innovate in an institutional environment conductive to collective learning.

In the field of entrepreneurship education, training social entrepreneurs is almost non-existent. Further, we need to emphasise to the educators and researchers about a form of social entrepreneurship oriented towards sustainable development. This can be performed through putting again the individual and the social entrepreneur at the heart of the entrepreneurial activity.

As for the new normal, a partnership and congruence relationship between a welfare government and social enterprises is suggested. The government should redistribute wealth, balance the markets and support all the activities that generate socialisation by providing the necessary public funding.

Last but not least, it is hoped that this opinion helps evoke a debate on the role of the business start-up support structures, by encouraging governments and professionals to promote new ways of training social entrepreneurs.


Oswald Timothy Edward is Senior Lecturer (Risk Management) at the Faculty of Business & Management, UiTM Johor.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)