The Past, Present, and Future of Social Entrepreneurship

By Katherine Fulton and J. Gregory Dees

In February 2006, New Profit Inc. hosted a Gathering of Leaders at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. There, a group of visionary social entrepreneurs, along with leaders from business, policy, academia, and philanthropy, participated in a dialogue to create an action agenda addressing our nation’s most persistent social problems. These leaders brought many different passions and experiences to the convening. Most of them, however, had one thing in common: a growing belief that social entrepreneurship provides new hope for addressing both enduring and emerging social challenges. Under the surface of this shared commitment lay some fascinating questions: Why is the early twenty-first century such an exciting and promising moment for the field of social entrepreneurship? What is it really, and what is its potential? And what can each of us do to release its promise and accelerate its impact? To address these questions, New Profit asked Katherine Fulton, president of Monitor Institute and a former journalist, to interview Professor Greg Dees, who has chronicled and influenced the field’s development, in the process becoming perhaps its most prominent scholar. This edited conversation was distributed as a pre-reading for the participants at Mohonk.

New Profit Inc., 2006