Do you want to do well, while doing good? In other words, are you interested in starting a business that has a positive impact on society and on your bottom line? Then you might want to be a social entrepreneur! We discussed the ins and outs of how to become a successful social entrepreneur on our podcast. One key best practice for solving some of the world’s largest problems via business is collaboration. Below, we will discuss strategies for working with others to create social change!
Collaboration is Key
In the past, social entrepreneurs were described as lone wolves with a dream to change society. This created a sense that social entrepreneurs had to embody a “me against the world” mentality. But, more recently, that narrative has changed. Now, researchers recognize the importance of working with people in the same sector, and across sectors, to solve major world issues. Basically, it’s important to recognize that the problem you’re trying to solve (e.g., hunger, homelessness, violence) is complex and look for partners in tackling it.
There are two main ways social entrepreneurs might do that, based on broader guidance for business strategy. First, you can work with others in your sector or outside of your sector to pool resources. This means that you might ask a lot of entities to do a little bit – but by organizing those efforts, they amount to a lot. For example, the Human Rights Campaign asks organizations to adhere to their checklist for best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Each organization has to make small changes to get a high score on the Equality Index, But, by organizing their efforts and providing resources and metrics for improving inclusion, the HRC has prompted larger-scale change in many of the Fortune 500 companies.
Second, you can trade resources with those in or outside of your sector. In these instances, organizations help to fill gaps where they are weak, with others’ strengths. For example, during vaccine development in the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists shared breakthroughs instead of hiding them from each other. This helped promote faster vaccine development to address the ongoing global health crisis.
Consistency Makes Social Entrepreneurs Appealing
Social entrepreneurs are more successful in collaborating when they are consistent in their messaging. Other organizations or entrepreneurs need to understand why collaborating will help advance the cause. If you are using a clear and consistent message about why your approach is effective, you can get more collaborators on board.
Sometimes these benefits can be societal. For example, if your organization is trying to get companies to agree to follow certain standards for sustainable practices, you might make it easy for them to switch one practice, instead of ten. Then, you would communicate over and over the importance of that one practice, and provide resources for organizations to make the switch without struggle. Or you might focus on the value to them as an organization. The Human Rights Campaign communicates the value of having an inclusive culture as a competitive advantage for organizations, to encourage their participation in the Corporate Equality Index. Either way, you can facilitate collaboration by making your message clear and actions easier.
Perspective-Taking Drives Social Entrepreneurs’ Success
Finally, social entrepreneurs need to look for other perspectives to inform their own approach. By working together with others, they can learn a lot. But, they have to work toward doing so. It’s not enough just to listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos about similar entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs have to create avenues for sharing ideas instead.
For example, you might create a forum for organizations working on solving the same problem to share ideas and best practices. When doing so, you should include a broad array of perspectives from around the world. This helps you to understand the scope of the issue, the nuances of solving for it, and the specific role your organization plays. Conducting focus groups with community members, or individuals running similar organizations globally, can also help to improve knowledge sharing.
Overall, solving thorny societal issues is tough. Social entrepreneurs shouldn’t try to fight these challenges alone. Working together can help to make progress toward achieving important goals, and making the world a better place.