Social entrepreneurs are persons who apply novel applications to solve community problems. They use market-based methods and risk capital to change our society for the better. While these methods are designed for profits, the primary purpose is to positively uplift communities. For example, a company manufactures affordable household stoves for households that are without stoves or cook using unhealthy methods. Their primary purpose is to improve the lives of the poor who cannot afford to purchase modern appliances.
In their paper, The Holistic Motivation of Social Entrepreneurs, published in the book Faith and Work: Christian Perspectives, Research, and Insights Into the Movement (Edited by Timothy Ewest, Information Age Publishing Inc, Charlotte, NC, 2018, pages 211–225), Julia R. Marra (Gordon College) and Dr. Kent W. Seibert (Gordon College) describe three drivers that motivate “positive social change.”(p. 217)
The first driver is religious belief. God instructs Christians to help the poor and oppressed. What is the most effective way to serve the poor? Past missionary models have concentrated on giving materials, health care, and assistance to poor regions. This model is not sustainable and can contribute to entitlement. Others struggled “with aspects of institutionalized religion” that were seen as bureaucracy. (p. 219) Companies owned by Christian social entrepreneurs developed market-based products and solutions that bypassed the institutional churches and bettered the lives of the poor. This model has proved efficient and effective.
The second driver is feeling compassion. Social entrepreneurs are aware “of the suffering of others combined with a desire to relieve that suffering.”(p. 220) Most had personally seen the social issues in developing countries through international travel. They felt a driving force to respond in a meaningful and sustainable way towards social justice.
The third driver is a life-long value of service. This was derived from “familial influence” in the “awareness of the needs of others.” Through experiences during their upbringing, they developed an “awareness of inequities” which made it much harder for the poor to overcome. (p. 221) This attribute to serve others was fundamental to their being.
Christians work for many reasons but are all called to use our God-given talents to uplift our community towards the new creation. We are called to use God’s resources effectively and efficiently. Social entrepreneurs are using creative, market-based solutions to integrate their faith and work. The Spirit works in many ways and we are called to follow.