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Entrepreneurs Who Measure Their Return in 'Social Value'

Social entrepreneurs organize and support programs that aim to improve communities. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The traditional definition of an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and accepts the risks of a new business. Entrepreneurs may have a new product or service to offer. Or they may have ideas for new ways to do business.

But an entrepreneurial spirit does not have to be limited to the business world. Lately we hear more and more about social entrepreneurs. What they do is similar; they might even act like business entrepreneurs. They might invest money in projects or get others to support them.

But social entrepreneurs say they are not guided by a desire for profits. Their most important goal, they say, is to create social value. They organize and support programs that aim to improve conditions in communities.

Social entrepreneurs say they look for solutions to needs without leaving them to government or industry to solve. And they say they try to spread the solution. In other words, to change the system, they try to get whole societies to change.

There are many historical examples of people who might be called social entrepreneurs. Susan B. Anthony, for example, fought for women's rights in the United States. Vinoba Bhave created the Land Gift Movement to help India's poor and landless.

Britain's Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing, established a school for nurses and fought for better hospital conditions. And Mary Montessori of Italy improved teaching methods for early childhood education.

These are some of the examples given by Ashoka, a nonprofit group in the United States.

Over the past twenty years, there has been extraordinary growth in social entrepreneurship. Some students coming out of the best business schools now seriously consider it as a career. And one organization that has helped fuel this growth is Ashoka.

Bill Drayton started the group in nineteen eighty. Ashoka says it works on three levels. It supports individual social entrepreneurs, both financially and professionally. It also helps them connect with others around the world, so they can spread their ideas and build long-term support. And, thirdly, Ashoka says it helps build the financial systems needed to support the growth of social entrepreneurship.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. You can find a link to the Ashoka Web site at, along with transcripts and audio files of our reports. I’m Steve Ember.