Economia mundial

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The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”
J. Gregory Dees
Original Draft: October 31, 1998
Reformatted and revised: May 30, 2001
The idea of “social entrepreneurship” has struck a
responsive chord. It is a phrase well suited to our
times. It combines the passion of a social mission
with an image of business-like discipline,
innovation, and determination commonly
associated with, forinstance, the high-tech
pioneers of Silicon Valley. The time is certainly
ripe for entrepreneurial approaches to social
problems. Many governmental and philanthropic
efforts have fallen far short of our expectations.
Major social sector institutions are often viewed
as inefficient, ineffective, and unresponsive.
Social entrepreneurs are needed to develop new
models for a new century.
Thelanguage of social entrepreneurship may be
new, but the phenomenon is not. We have always
had social entrepreneurs, even if we did not call
them that. They originally built many of the
institutions we now take for granted. However,
the new name is important in that it implies a
blurring of sector boundaries. In addition to
innovative
not-for-profit
ventures,
social
entrepreneurship caninclude social purpose
business ventures, such as for-profit community
development banks, and hybrid organizations
mixing not-for-profit and for-profit elements, such
as homeless shelters that start businesses to train
and employ their residents. The new language
helps to broaden the playing field. Social
entrepreneurs look for the most effective methods
of serving their social missions.Though the concept of “social entrepreneurship”
is gaining popularity, it means different things to
different people. This can be confusing. Many
associate social entrepreneurship exclusively with
not-for-profit organizations starting for-profit or
earned-income ventures. Others use it to describe
anyone who starts a not-for-profit organization.
Still others use it to refer to business ownerswho
integrate social responsibility into their
operations. What does “social entrepreneurship”
really mean? What does it take to be a social
entrepreneur? To answer these questions, we
should start by looking into the roots of the term
“entrepreneur.”

Origins of the Word “Entrepreneur”
In common parlance, being an entrepreneur is
associated with starting a business, but this is a
veryloose application of a term that has a rich
history and a much more significant meaning.
The term “entrepreneur” originated in French
economics as early as the 17th and 18th
centuries. In French, it means someone who
“undertakes,” not an “undertaker” in the sense of
a funeral director, but someone who undertakes a
significant project or activity. More specifically,
it came to be used toidentify the venturesome
individuals who stimulated economic progress by
finding new and better ways of doing things. The
French economist most commonly credited with
giving the term this particular meaning is Jean
Baptiste Say. Writing around the turn of the 19th
century, Say put it this way, “The entrepreneur
shifts economic resources out of an area of lower
and into an area of higherproductivity and
greater yield.” Entrepreneurs create value.
In the 20th century, the economist most closely
associated with the term was Joseph Schumpeter.
He described entrepreneurs as the innovators who
drive the “creative-destructive” process of
capitalism. In his words, “the function of
entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionize the
pattern of production.” They can do this in many
ways:“by exploiting an invention or, more
generally, an untried technological possibility for
producing a new commodity or producing an old
one in a new way, by opening up a new source of
supply of materials or a new outlet for products,
by reorganizing an industry and so on.”
Schumpeter’s entrepreneurs are the change
agents in the economy. By serving new markets
or creating new ways of doing...
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