Achieving sustainable development via social enterprises and innovation

Lately, we observe a remarkable and growing interest in social entrepreneurship. These changemakers are becoming the central force of a social economy that reflects local and regional needs and pursue complex goals. By social economy, we mean Non-governmental Organizations, Non-profit organizations, cooperatives, voluntary groups and social enterprises; the niche between the government and private sector.

A social enterprise’s purpose is to meet profit maximization while simultaneously addressing social and/or environmental intentions that include for the most part reinvesting in the community. With a social purpose they take aim at providing social services for low-income groups, create job opportunities (especially for women), and care for disabled persons, homeless, and juvenile delinquents.

At a local level, social enterprises provide both assets and social infrastructure. In other words, they provide an understanding of the region or community, based on the context of social enterprises.

Below, I highlight the fundamental social values that social enterprises foster to spur sustainable development.

Economic Value

Social enterprises create jobs particularly for socially marginalized individuals and groups. What’s more, they tend to facilitate economic or social development through grants.

Social Values

Supplementing public sector social services and addressing welfare state problems with solutions sums up their work. They make room for solutions in education and healthcare services. Consequently, they create and enhance community engagement through volunteering.

Environment and Cultural Values

Some promote and practice environmental sustainability and implement recycling programs.

Political Values

They advocate social equality, democratic public participation and involve local citizens. When they implement an alternative economic approach, it reflects far more than just making money.


Although social enterprises may be attempting to promote sustainable development, obstacles will always arise. These above mentioned social values are not enough to spur local development. In view that not everyone in the community has a strong will to see sustainable development as in their best interest or as a high priority, creating an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs to grow and thrive is needed. Yet, this requires the collaboration of key stakeholders such as the state, market sector, and development agencies.

Since a lack of cooperation may occur, perhaps a stronger sense of community entrepreneurship is needed. Local citizen might feel that the incentivizing structures available do not promote cooperation. Moreover, they might lack a capacity to act on their own due to insufficient resources or power. Yet, the need to work within severe resource constraints has encouraged social entrepreneurs to be innovative and develop frugal solutions. Creating alliances among them and reinvesting profits has work to achieve this change.

In a follow-up article, I will address achievement of sustainable development and social entrepreneurship beyond its definition. So stay tuned for some case studies!

If by reading this article you had any reflections on what sutainable development achievement by social entrepreneurs’ is to you, I’d like to hear your opinion.

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