Social entrepreneurship differs from traditional entrepreneurship in many ways. One key way to distinguish a traditional entrepreneur from a social entrepreneur is through the goal he hopes to achieve. While the traditional entrepreneur aims to create a product, service or process for which a consumer will pay, the social entrepreneur aims to create a product, service or process from which society will benefit. In essence, traditional entrepreneurs aim to create commercial value where social entrepreneurs aim to create social value.
Furthermore, because social entrepreneurs are tackling issues such as the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, the outcomes of their success can be more rewarding. While a success in the business world can mean more money for investors, success in social entrepreneurship can mean saving lives — and fundamentally improving the world.
The work of social entrepreneurs also differs from that of civil society organizations. While philanthropists, social activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also work toward the creation of social value, they achieve that social value in different ways.
Philanthropists and social activists use influence — whether from financial contributions, political clout or public pressure — to create social value. NGOs deploy products, services or processes within the status quo to create social value. But social entrepreneurs go above and beyond: They create social value by generating innovative solutions that establish a completely new — and improved — status quo. And rather than funding through donations, social entrepreneurs reinvest their revenue into their ventures.
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