02 April 2007

Social Entrepreneurs: Skoll World Forum - More Funds Needed by Social Entrepreneurs

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nicole Wallace reports on the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, held last week at the Said Business School on Oxford University's 900-year-old campus. The relatively new field of social entrepreneurship, which brings together business acumen and social goals, is struggling to get to scale.

In a word, the growing field is short on funds to finance its growth.

Wallace quotes Martin Fisher, chief executive officer of KickStart, a nonprofit organization in Nairobi that sells water pumps to poor farmers in Africa: "'There's still a shortage of funds, and the funds that are there are still very hard for social entrepreneurs to get. Every social entrepreneur I've met is spending far too much of their time working to raise money.'

"Instead, he argued, they should be working to develop 'the next big thing, the next equivalent to microfinance.'"

"Through the work of social entrepreneurs around the world, he said, microfinance has reached a point where millions of dollars — both philanthropic and for-profit — are pouring into lending projects, enabling loans to more than 110 million of the world's poorest people.

"But, 'we have to remember very clearly that it's taken microfinance 30 years and hundreds of millions of dollars of consistent investment to reach the place where it is today,' said Mr. Fisher. 'So to get to a tipping point, any of the new innovations are going to take a large amount of time and a large amount of money.'"

Growth is essential for this field, which is addressing some of the world's most pressing problems. A new study by the SustainAbility, a company in London that provides consulting and research on corporate responsibility, "Growing Opportunity: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems", is the first part of a three-year project to increase partnerships between social entrepreneurs and corporations. The Skoll Foundation, in Palo Alto, CA, is supporting the project with a $1-million grant.

Read the full article: Social Entrepreneurs

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