Why are social enterprises relevant in the 21st century?

With the globalisation of our world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to be completely unaware of the unfolding major issues arising across the globe. From the Ebola crisis that engulfed sub-Saharan Africa in 2014 to the chokehold of extremist groups in the Middle East, it is without any doubt to see that we are truly living through an unnerving time.

In this modern era, social entrepreneurs carry the responsibility of righting many of society’s wrongs. They judge their activities by their success in bringing about desired transformations, whether in their local community or a jurisdiction in another continent. Well-known twentieth-century figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Muhammad Yunus, who work(ed) to improve their communities not via government action but through commerce, advocacy, and community organizing, are also social entrepreneurs.

In 2014, the spread of the Ebola disease in some West African nations caused concern for the global community. But with all the pandemonium that surrounded the outbreak – arguably little was been done to prevent the spread on the ground. It was precisely this problem that two two social entrepreneurs took upon themselves to tackle. Matthias Metternich and William Cookson – are aiming to raise funds and awareness for the combating of Ebola in West Africa. They are doing this through the campaign they launched last month, Carebnb. Carebnb invited visitors o book a night of care and treatment on behalf of someone affected by the virus in West Africa where care was limited and medical volunteers lacked training.

Site creator, Matthias Metternich, says: “We’ve used our skills to build several for-profit products and services that disrupt or innovate things, but it’s not everyday that you can apply these skills to make a difference and even help save the world. Rather than donate $100, we challenged ourselves to apply the tools we have to create something with the potential to capture imaginations and rally people toward a common goal globally. We’re thrilled to see Carebnb take off the way it has and proud to prove that small ideas born from behind a desk can change lives in places far from home.”

Also considering the effects of natural disasters and the road towards to recovery, social entrepreneurs also have a very important role. Many government-led responses to disaster encounter impediments because, though officials possess requisite expertise, they may lack the local knowledge needed to apply that expertise effectively. Local social entrepreneurs, on the other hand, succeed in post-disaster environments, as in non-disaster ones, because they are integral to the community. Thus they possess local knowledge and can act to meet the specific needs of their communities.

I leave you with a poignant quote from Bill Drayton, one of the world’s foremost thinkers in the world of social entrepreneurship. “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” 

It’s about time we cast our nets.

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