5 steps to help social entrepreneurship thrive by Katherine Milligan Director and Head, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

Here are five things government leaders should do to foster a thriving social entrepreneurship sector:

Leverage your convening power. Social enterprise crosses many sectors, industries and bureaucracies; a crucial role government can play is breaking down the existing silos that prevent growth and promoting the generation and sharing of ideas. Engagement can take various forms, from catalytic gatherings to longer-term initiatives, but a unifying component to any policy is the development of structures that allow communication and coordinated action between investors, entrepreneurs, civil society and policy-makers.

Let social entrepreneurs advise you, not the other way around. Your most important job is to really understand how these business models work and what social entrepreneurs actually need.

Resist the temptation to launch a start-up competition. Why? The amount of staff time and resources that must be invested in managing application processes, devising a communication plan, organizing an event,…All of which  usually dwarf the amount of resources devoted to the start-ups themselves, which in their early stages need an intensive amount of hand-holding something that many defunct start-up competitions found out the hard way.

Experiment with procurement mechanisms. Procurement systems in most countries are set up to favor conventional approaches and existing relationships, i.e. large, longstanding government contractors that provide traditional services. For that reason, mechanisms such as open competitions to solve a specific social problem are a great way to break through the procurement logjam and bring in new and innovative ideas and partners.

Collaborate with humility. As Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur Martin Burt said, “We all need to be a little bit more humble and work together, because right now everybody’s working in a completely uncoordinated way while the problems get bigger and bigger. How can we bring the talent and the passion of social innovators to government institutions so that innovations can be rolled out in the education sector, in the public works sector, in the health sector, in the housing sector? This is an opportunity to create alliances between people who have access to big budgets but are constrained by the bureaucracy in which they work and people who have the talent and the ideas and who are free to innovate.”



5 steps to help social entrepreneurship thrive