Myth vs Facts, Misconceptions
AWARENESS

Misconceptions fly fast when it comes to the topic of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship can hardly be considered be a spanking new phenomenon, what with it being around for the past 20 years. Yet society acts as if it is, with many of them still having erroneous notions of what social entrepreneurship stands for in the grand scheme of things. This can probably be attributed to the fact that social entrepreneurship is usually thrown into the lazy assumption that it is a new-fangled business model that is neither a charity nor a business. Because it cannot be filed neatly under prescribed categories, it is simply left as that, dismissed and forgotten.

When articles on social entrepreneurship do come up, they are typically met with apathy or treated as conversational fodder without putting real thought into what it entails, especially to general members of the public. Here are some common myths of social entrepreneurship to to be debunked once and for all:

1. Social entrepreneurship = glorified charity?

It is a common belief that social entrepreneurs Just need to touch hearts to open wallets, but that cannot be further from the truth. Yes – like charity, there is a social element to running a social enterprise whereby consumers need to feel connected to their story. Unlike charity, however, social enterprises run as a business and therefore need to drive demand by providing quality goods and services instead of simply getting away with a good sob story.

Consumers are becoming increasingly educated and informed, having quick access to any information on the Internet. As such, they are not as easily convinced to buy a product by a ‘sob story’ as compared to if a charity is concerned. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations, which encompass both the company mission and product perception, are what social enterprises depend on to drive their work.

2. Social entrepreneurship is an unsustainable business model

Some skeptics might comment on the unsustainability of the business model which social entrepreneurship prides itself on – with a focus on social impact alongside with profit-driven initiatives. In fact, Eyal Halamish, a social entrepreneur herself, was quoted as saying “[a] social enterprise is actually a failed business [and] once it becomes profitable it’s just a good enterprise”. It certainly is not an equal world out there, so something’s surely gotta give – right? In fact, not necessarily so.

The sustainability factor of social enterprises can be managed – by working hard on the business side of social enterprise that the social mission can be achieved. Admittedly, even among social entrepreneurs themselves, there is a lack of understanding with regard to the balance on emphasis of the social mission and the bottomline of the company. Perhaps fuelled by public opinion that social enterprises focus only on the social element (see point 1), there appears to be an over-emphasis on pushing the social agenda and neglecting the enterprising mindset – an oxymoronic mindset which might endanger their goal of achieving their social objectives of starting a social enterprise in the first place.

This debunking is as much for the general public as it is for budding social entrepreneurs – never neglect the enterprise element while chasing the social, because you just might end up losing both.

3. Social entrepreneurship only exist in traditionally do-good sectors such as healthcare or education.

The reach of social enterprises stretches far and wide, even within the small social enterprise scene in Singapore. For example, Society Staples, a social enterprise within the sports sector that organizes team building projects for corporates and schools to increase awareness of PWDs, are not the typical cookie cutter social enterprise one would imagine to be. Other social enterprises in Singapore that exist in unconventional sectors include Billion Bricks from the construction sector, Pulse Sync from the IT services sector and even Art Concierge from the transport sector.

While social enterprises may come from different sectors, have different social missions and serve different beneficiaries, their objective is and will always stay the same: making a positive impact on society.

Misconceptions fly fast when it comes to the topic of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship can hardly be considered be a spanking new phenomenon, what with it being around for the past 20 years. Yet society acts as if it is, with many of them still having erroneous notions of what social entrepreneurship stands for in the grand scheme of things. This can probably be attributed to the fact that social entrepreneurship is usually thrown into the lazy assumption that it is a new-fangled business model that is neither a charity nor a business. Because it cannot be filed neatly under prescribed categories, it is simply left as that, dismissed and forgotten.

When articles on social entrepreneurship do come up, they are typically met with apathy or treated as conversational fodder without putting real thought into what it entails, especially to general members of the public. Here are some common myths of social entrepreneurship to to be debunked once and for all:

1. Social entrepreneurship = glorified charity?

It is a common belief that social entrepreneurs Just need to touch hearts to open wallets, but that cannot be further from the truth. Yes – like charity, there is a social element to running a social enterprise whereby consumers need to feel connected to their story. Unlike charity, however, social enterprises run as a business and therefore need to drive demand by providing quality goods and services instead of simply getting away with a good sob story.

Consumers are becoming increasingly educated and informed, having quick access to any information on the Internet. As such, they are not as easily convinced to buy a product by a ‘sob story’ as compared to if a charity is concerned. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations, which encompass both the company mission and product perception, are what social enterprises depend on to drive their work.

2. Social entrepreneurship is an unsustainable business model

Some skeptics might comment on the unsustainability of the business model which social entrepreneurship prides itself on – with a focus on social impact alongside with profit-driven initiatives. In fact, Eyal Halamish, a social entrepreneur herself, was quoted as saying “[a] social enterprise is actually a failed business [and] once it becomes profitable it’s just a good enterprise”. It certainly is not an equal world out there, so something’s surely gotta give – right? In fact, not necessarily so.

The sustainability factor of social enterprises can be managed – by working hard on the business side of social enterprise that the social mission can be achieved. Admittedly, even among social entrepreneurs themselves, there is a lack of understanding with regard to the balance on emphasis of the social mission and the bottomline of the company. Perhaps fuelled by public opinion that social enterprises focus only on the social element (see point 1), there appears to be an over-emphasis on pushing the social agenda and neglecting the enterprising mindset – an oxymoronic mindset which might endanger their goal of achieving their social objectives of starting a social enterprise in the first place.

This debunking is as much for the general public as it is for budding social entrepreneurs – never neglect the enterprise element while chasing the social, because you just might end up losing both.

3. Social entrepreneurship only exist in traditionally do-good sectors such as healthcare or education.

The reach of social enterprises stretches far and wide, even within the small social enterprise scene in Singapore. For example, Society Staples, a social enterprise within the sports sector that organizes team building projects for corporates and schools to increase awareness of PWDs, are not the typical cookie cutter social enterprise one would imagine to be. Other social enterprises in Singapore that exist in unconventional sectors include Billion Bricks from the construction sector, Pulse Sync from the IT services sector and even Art Concierge from the transport sector.

While social enterprises may come from different sectors, have different social missions and serve different beneficiaries, their objective is and will always stay the same: making a positive impact on society.