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What makes a social entrepreneur? The School for Social Entrepreneurs explain

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by Startacus Admin

What makes a Social Entrepreneur? We chat to the School for Social Entrepreneurswhat makes a social entrepreneur?

A little while ago, we were given a rather generous 20% discount to Startacus members to attend a  School for Social Entrepreneurs workshop  on Funding - a fab event by a pretty fab organisation.

In light of this, we thought it’d be worth having a chat with Leonie Jarrett, Communications Officer of the School for Social Entrepreneurs to find out some more about social enterprise, what makes someone a social entrepreneur and indeed more about the mission of the School for Social Entrepreneurs itself.

For those of you who are unaware, since 1997 the School for Social Entrepreneurs has been supporting all sorts of individuals who are starting & growing social enterprises. From their main base in East London, their network of franchise schools now supports hundreds of social entrepreneurs a year across the UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia.

what makes a social entrepreneur? First off Leonie - what do you think makes someone a Social Entrepreneur?

Someone with a good idea to positively change the world and who has the determination to make it happen. Social entrepreneurs have all the characteristics of a regular entrepreneur, their motivation is what makes them different. A social entrepreneur’s business idea is driven by a desire to make social change, not a desire to make money.

And leading on from this, what do you think classifies a business as being a Social Enterprise?

This is a question that comes up a lot! A social enterprise is a business driven by a social or environmental purpose. As with all businesses, social enterprises compete to deliver goods and services. The difference is that social purpose is at the very heart of what they do, and the profits they make are reinvested towards achieving that purpose. But at SSE we purposely focus on social entrepreneurs not social enterprises as it is difficult for us to select who we support based on business models. Many of the startups we work with are yet to choose a legal structure and those we work with from the third and public sector (who we refer to as ‘intrapreneurs’) tend to be working on innovative projects within larger organisations.

Tell us more about SSE and a little bit more about the company’s history to date?


The School for Social Entrepreneurs was founded in 1997 by Michael Young. The SSE was the last in the line of organisations created by the Institute of Community Studies (now the Young Foundation), a pioneering urban think tank. In 2000, the SSE also helped lead the consortium which created UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, in order to provide startup grants across the UK. Over the past two decades the SSE has helped over 1,500 social entrepreneurs find success. We now have schools right across the UK and in Australia, Canada and Ireland and we have exciting plans to open in India later this year!

what makes a social entrepreneur?What type of ways do you help social entrepreneurs and social enterprises?

We provide needs-led training solutions for social entrepreneurs. We work with individuals looking to start their own social enterprise as well as individuals from the third and public sector who are keen to develop knowledge and understanding of the social enterprise space. From our 18 years’ experience of working with social entrepreneurs we have an in-depth understanding of what support social entrepreneurs need and have developed our offering to reflect this. Our courses cover everything from how and why you should measure your social impact, how to make social media work for your organisation and models for scaling and replication.

In terms of funding for social enterprises and not-for-profits, how tough has the last few years been?

Many of the social entrepreneurs we support are having to look at new funding models due to a reduction in available grant funding. In response to this we have developed a number of courses to help them through this process, for example our Sources of Fundingand Unlocking Social Investment one-day workshops. Cuts to funding for the charity sector have also led to an increase in traditionally grant dependent organisations looking to become more enterprising, ourTransition to Tradingcourse supports charity leaders on this journey and helps them to identify new income streams for their organisation.

what makes a social entrepreneur?Tell us about some of the key plans and projects you have running for the remainder of 2015 that might be of interest to our audience.

We have launched a new  YouTube channel aimed at social entrepreneurs and we have lots of exciting new courses planned for 2015. Check out our website for the latest listings!

If Social Enterprise is your thing, you might want to also read our recent articles on:

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Published on: 22nd June 2015

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