In an increasingly polarised world, obtaining 100% agreement for anything seems impossible. Yet, in our survey of leading social entrepreneurs across the world, 100% of respondents agreed on one point. Every social entrepreneur said they would do it all over again, despite:
• 75% reporting use of personal funds to support their social enterprise
• 75% revealing personal financial hardships from earning a lower-than-private sector salary
• 63% saying they had no time for hobbies or interests
• And others citing missed family celebrations, burnout, stress, feeling cheated, exhausted and isolated, and having no time for personal health or development.
Are we gluttons for punishments? Closet masochists? Well, maybe.
We are a group driven by something bigger than ourselves, by feeling like we’ve made a difference in the world and to those we serve.
In a world where social issues are proliferating, where governments and countries are looking inward instead of outward and where geographic boundaries are becoming blurred, the role of social entrepreneur has never been more vital.
The first ever practitioner-driven social entrepreneurship survey
After nearly five decades of combined experience leading social enterprises, we’ve become increasingly troubled by what we see as significant barriers to the field of social innovation. Last August, we highlighted 6 obstacles that are holding the social enterprise sector back. The article, followed by a standing room-only discussion at the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs’ Summit in New York in September, marked the first phase of a practitioner-led initiative to engage fellow social entrepreneurs in identifying sector-wide challenges. Our aim is to foster forthright discussion and initiate ideas to propel our collective work forward.
To expand input from social sector practitioners, over the last few months we invited fellow Schwab Foundation social entrepreneurs to share their candid responses in a deep-dive survey. In addition to the personal costs listed above, here is some of what our peers shared as the key factors hindering the sector’s ability to scale:
1. Consistent and patient capital
While two-thirds of respondents said that the ability to scale is “very important” for addressing social issues, 47% of respondents said that the lack of consistent access to capital is the #1 barrier to scaling their organization. No one in the sector is likely to find this response surprising. In fact, the only surprise to us is that this number isn’t higher.
For far too long, serendipity and personal connections have largely influenced access to funding. Yet funders’ decisions often determine where, what and how much progress is made on key issues confronting our world. The system does not consistently identify the best solutions, help to refine them and support scaling.