Global Social Entrepreneurship: An opportunity for today’s world in crisis

Profs. Concepción Galdón, IE Business School, and Sheila M. Cannon, Trinity Business School, with a focus on social entrepreneurship - a catalyst for green growth in times of crisis.

Professors Concepción Galdón, IE Center for Social Innovation and Sustainability at IE University, and Sheila M. Cannon, Trinity Centre for Social Innovation, Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, explore how the creativity and innovation inherent in social enterprise can be used to help solve a world in crisis.   

Global Social Entrepreneurship: An opportunity for today’s world in crisis by Concepción Galdón and Sheila M. Cannon.

The idea of bringing in the best possible tools to solve the most pressing problems is as ancient as humanity. However, at some point, we started drifting apart from that very reasonable intuition to “box” tools in specific sectors: Financial planning belongs to the private sector; tracking impact belongs to the third; and delivering services belongs to the public sector. With some paradigmatic exceptions, most of us fell in that trap and many remain in it. Not social entrepreneurs.

Social Entrepreneurship is a field that has been practicing and generating frameworks to continue to bring the best possible tools, regardless of the sector that created them, to solve the most pressing problems.

The seeds of social enterprise originated in different ways across the globe simultaneously: in Europe with cooperatives and then work integration schemes; in Bangladesh in the 1970s with microfinance; in Africa with ubundu and afrocapitalism; in Latin America with renowned examples of social entrepreneurship, such as digital social currency; in the United States with innovative individuals in the 1980s. With a long trajectory to back it up, social entrepreneurship has never been more relevant for the world than it is today.

The current state of affairs and a role for social entrepreneurship

At this point in history, faced with the triple whammy of global pandemic, climate crisis and the risk of food and energy scarcity due to the conflict in Ukraine, humankind has no choice but become more creative, innovative, and collaborative in how we organise ourselves. In terms of impact on the natural environment, business-as-usual was already broken. And then, with one third of the globe’s population in some form of lockdown at the height of the pandemic, business ground almost to a halt.

Amidst the calls to get the economy back up and running, there are also calls to rebuild differently – greener and with greater equality for all. While the pandemic and other crises are dreadful, they also bring opportunity for change.

We invite you to consider the importance of accelerating change towards Capitalism 4.0, creating societies and economies capable of solving problems for everyone, at scale. This requires reframing the roles and relationships of all actors in society, including companies, public administrations, NGOs and civil society. In reinventing ourselves and how we relate to each other, we need to consider how to adapt this new model to each context. Social entrepreneurship has already proven to be relevant across the globe and capable of adapting to the needs of each region.

Global Social Entrepreneurship: An opportunity for today’s world in crisis

How to response to global crises

Not only has social entrepreneurship proven capable of adapting geographically, but it has also taken various forms that have made it all the more relevant. Social enterprise is particularly useful and timely today because it cuts across left-right politics.

Following the Cold War, the idea and practice of free-markets swept across the globe as the winning ideology of the time. This is evident in the trend of the nonprofit and public sectors becoming more business-like – part of the social enterprise story.

Since then, there have been growing calls for businesses to become more social. And the concept of social business and corporate sustainability emerged as another strand of the social enterprise story. The solidarity economy moves us beyond the dichotomy of left-right politics that holds so much conflict and division and creates a space where we can rebuild together using the best possible tools, irrespective of where they come from.

As we strive to build a world in which we would rather live during the most challenging crises our generation has ever experienced, let us take advantage of so much that the field of social entrepreneurship has to offer.

Concepción Galdón and Sheila M. Cannon
Concepción Galdón and Sheila M. Cannon

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The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

Member schools are all “Triple Crown” accredited AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA and leaders in their respective countries.

The Council on Business & Society member schools:
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- Europe: ESSEC Business School, France; IE Business School, Spain; Trinity Business School, Ireland; Warwick Business School, United Kingdom.
- Africa: Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa; ESSEC Africa, Morocco. 
- South America: FGV-EAESP, Brazil.

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