Embracing the Label “Social Entrepreneur”

After bouncing back and forth between nonprofits and for-profits, I am weary of the false divisions between the sectors. A friend of mine, a long-time nonprofit consultant and former director, remarks that traditional NPOs are on their way out, that “social entrepreneurship” is taking over the sector. I get the sense that social entrepreneurship is actually taking over not one but three domains – nonprofits, small business, and individual careers.

Main Street businesses and community-based nonprofits face similar threats as models:

  • People have increasing choice about where they give or spend their money – and where and how they work.
  • People have increasing access to opportunities outside of their communities.
  • People have the means to ask more questions about how things really operate, how the nonprofit is actually managed and whether that “community business” owner is really a pillar of the community.

In terms of careers, younger people have no memory of the social compact that would justify unlimited devotion to corporate masters and loan obligations that take any possible romance out of poverty-level wages still paid at some nonprofit jobs.

I recently worked in the animal welfare industry and still engage in the animal welfare cause. There exists a fluid network of pet shop owners, volunteers, activists, government-run pounds, nonprofit shelters, donors, consumers, and other business owners banding together on the Internet and elsewhere to improve pet’s nutrition, legal rights, quality of life, and cultural status. Job holders, volunteers, and self-employed workers alike float between sectors and roles and jobs – or hold multiple ones at the same time.

My days as a self-sacrificing nonprofiteer are most definitely over …

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