As societal values continue to evolve, social entrepreneurship has become an increasingly growing business category. Defined as entrepreneurial ventures that have a goal of social change rather than strictly financial gain, I see social entrepreneurship as a close cousin of the emerging area of service design, which I’ve discussed at length on Merge (Continuing the Service Design Conversation, September 4, 2009). It’s easy to spot fundamental design principles in empathic concepts like solar powered trash compactors and needle-free injection devices.
But regardless of whether the primary goal of these businesses is financial gain or not, they still require money—and sometimes in significant amounts—in order to fulfill their vision. So, where does a social entrepreneur go for funding? Well, as the business category grows, and the success stories accumulate, the funding community is beginning to pay attention. Last spring, BusinessWeek.com ran a series of articles on social entrepreneurship which included this overview of angels, venture capitalists and foundations that specialize in this area. Included on the list are: Acumen Fund, Commons Capital, Investors’ Circle, and others.
Additionally, BW.com has an ongoing series of profiles of 28 of America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs featured in this slideshow. More recently, the site ran an update on one of the stories from the original 28: D.Light Design which pledges to commercialize and sell solar-powered LED lamps to those living on less than $5 a day in Africa and Southwest Asia, a safer, cheaper option than the more common kerosene. D.Light Design recently secured $6 million in venture funding.