It is customers that bring a social change. Neither customers nor social enterprises realise this. The lack of this fundamental understanding by social entrepreneurs is the single largest barrier to the growth of social enterprises.
Typically, a social enterprise aims to disrupt existing social equilibrium by selling products and/or services. These products and/or services are rarely new. The social equilibrium can be lack of access to clean water or unemployment for a disadvantaged community. In this situation, a social enterprise has to focus on three elements:
- Match the product and/or service with the needs of the target market.
- Develop a sustainable business model that drives the growth.
- Disrupt the existing social equilibrium
These elements are multiplicative. A social enterprise loses its existence and meaning if any of these elements scores low. Disrupting an existing social equilibrium is a challenging task for a simple reason that existing forces keep the social situation in equilibrium. These forces are often very strong. Raising awareness, influencing and patience are basic tools for a Social Enterprise. Unfortunately, many social enterprises fail to use these tools properly. For example, typically Social Enterprises say “we are doing this to bring in a social change” instead of saying “only you can bring the social change”. This way, you seek people help to bring in the social change, they become your customers and when engaged, help you with product/service fit and ultimately become a powerful agent of social change.
The concept of social equilibrium comes from a brilliant article by Harvard Business Review which can be found here: