Written by Dr KK Tse in 2007

The 8 Dimensions of a Social Entrepreneur 社會創業者八面玲瓏

Passion for Life

Most social entrepreneurs are optimistic, positive and pro-active individuals. They also see the world as far from perfect; indeed they are often touched and saddened by human sufferings and deprivations of many forms. But instead of turning a blind eye to all these, they consider themselves as the fortunate ones and are keen to do whatever they can to make the world a better one to live.

Passion for a Specific Cause

Social entrepreneurs know that they cannot change the world overnight. So they focus their effort and energy on a single issue they are particularly passionate about. They know it could take years, sometimes decades, to really make a difference. The implication is that if you want to be a social entrepreneur, be sure you have identified a cause that you are ready to commit at least a decade of your life to it.

A Vision of Impact

‘Vision’ is a picture of the ideal state of the future you want to create. Social entrepreneurs are visionaries. There is a practical test of the power of a vision: I.C.A.C. meaning that a vision needs to be Inspirational, Challenging, Achievable and Concise. A vision needs to be shared by a whole spectrum of stakeholders; it provides meaning and focus and inspires people to act and collaborate.

Designing an Innovative Product

The greatest challenge for any social entrepreneur is to design and deliver a product that meets the dual objectives of (1) serving the target beneficiary; and (2) generating a profit at the same time. This is by no means an easy task and requires imagination, innovativeness and thinking out of the box. Many social enterprises fail precisely on this count.

Resourcefulness – No money, No Problem

The English word ‘resourceful’ is a wonder. When you say someone is beautiful, you mean that this person has beauty. But when you say someone is resourceful, it means that this person has no resources but is good at finding resources. Social entrepreneurs are very resourceful persons. They usually have little to start with, but they manage to secure the required resources to do the job.

Leveraging Social Marketing and Guerrilla Marketing

Marketing is critical for all social entrepreneurs. But the cost of conventional marketing could be prohibitive. Resourceful social entrepreneurs are experts in leveraging social marketing and guerrilla marketing, both involve low or no cost activities with significant marketing payoffs.

Building a Winning Team

This is of course a must. But social entrepreneurs usually encounter an interesting problem once their organisations reach a certain size: should volunteers be used alongside paid staff? The answer is actually quite simple: yes, use as many volunteers as you can find. The challenge then becomes: how to integrate the paid staff and the volunteers so that they all become part of the winning team? Some social entrepreneurs do a good job at this; others do not.

Creating an Entrepreneurial Board

Most business enterprises might not have a functioning board when they are start-up and small. Social enterprises can be different because of their social mission. It is up to the social entrepreneur concerned to identify the board members and build an entrepreneurial board. In some cases, it is the board which hires the social entrepreneur to run the business.