Artist as Social Entrepreneur
Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society.
Social entrepreneurs often seem to be possessed by their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of their field. They are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical implementation of their vision above all else.
Now that you more clearly understand what social entrepreneurship is about, go and re-read the first two paragraphs of this post, but this time read them and replace the word social entrepreneur(s) with artist(s).
In my opinion, the artist as social entrepreneur is almost as natural an expression of entrepreneurship as it gets. Both social entrepreneurship and artistry embrace common ground in their philosophical roots. Almost like a religion, both desire to spread the “good word” through the integrity, thoughtful reflection and determination that an artist’s intuitive nature, creativity and passion naturally create.
Here are some historical examples of leading social entrepreneurs:
Susan B. Anthony (U.S.): Fought for Women’s Rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead adoption of the 19th amendment.
Dr. Maria Montessori (Italy): Developed the Montessori approach to early childhood education.
Florence Nightingale (U.K.): Founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions.
Margaret Sanger (U.S.): Founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she led the movement for family planning efforts around the world.
John Muir (U.S.): Naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.
The business climate has never been riper to embrace the artist nor have the needs for societal positive healthy changes been greater.
While you might associate social entrepreneurship with starting a not-for profit ( also often known for leaving no profits left for the artist), I believe there is a way to combine the very best of the not-for-profit, philanthropic world with the for profit enterprising world through the vehicle of social entrepreneurship. This is definitely part of my journey as an entrepreneur and I think a common ground for discussion with many artists.
After all, the nonprofit environment has changed. Community needs are growing in size and diversity. More non-profits are competing for government and philanthropic funds. Traditional forms of funding are becoming smaller and less reliable. Funders and donors are demanding more accountability.
To me, all this information is an opportunity to face this new reality and embrace it. Build your social entrepreneurial venture like a for profit with a mission founded in integrity and a ” good word” that needs to be shared. This kind of hybrid is the wave of the future- so join the wave. It has started and you’re not too early or too late to jump on it.
What’s your mission? Who are you going to save or change and how will you profit doing it through your art?