By J. Gregory Dees
Social entrepreneurs and supportive philanthropists are challenging conventional assumptions by deliberately using business ventures to serve the public good. This idea of using market forces in strategic ways to promote social improvements is not new, but what is new is the openness and enthusiasm with which entrepreneurial, market-oriented approaches are being embraced as an integral element in creating lasting social change. This is particularly true when the social problem being addressed is poverty in the developing world. In most developing countries, there are serious barriers to market development which prevent the poor from participating in useful economic relationships. Philanthropists can add value by directing their capital and resources to the ventures most likely to remove these barriers and engage the poor in constructive ways. In order for such business ventures to achieve lasting social impact, those who support them must address new challenges that arise and gain a better understanding of the conditions under which they operate and how philanthropists and social investors can best contribute.
Brookings Institution Press, 2008