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Lesson: Social Entrepreneurship

Quick Look: Students learn about the economic trend of what has come to be called "social entrepreneurship" and its impact on global economics. Students learn about the impact they have had on social problems worldwide. Students will be introduced to the difference between a business entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur.

Grades: 6-12

Time: One to two 50-minute class periods

Materials: Internet connected computer, projector, computer lab if students are to explore the online "test for career choices" on PBS Web site.

Learning Goals

  • Students will understand the increasing trend of social entrepreneurship, and how it is impacting world issues.
  • Students will learn the difference between social entrepreneurship and the business-sector definition of entrepreneurship.
  • Students will learn about career possibilities in this new domain.


MCREL Standards in Economics

Understands characteristics of different economic systems, economic institutions, and economic incentives


What is a Social Entrepreneur?

"Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry."

— Bill Drayton, CEO, chair and founder of Ashoka, a global nonprofit organization devoted to developing the profession of social entrepreneurship (for more on Bill Drayton see

The Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University defines social entrepreneurship as "an approach to creating social value that embraces the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship."

A social entrepreneur identifies and solves large-scale social problems. Just as commercial entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, invent new approaches and create sustainable solutions that are valuable to society.

Unlike traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs generate "social value," not monetary value. And unlike traditional non-profit volunteers, their work is targeted not towards immediate, small-scale effects, but sweeping, long-term change. Identifying and solving large-scale social problems is the job of a social entrepreneur.

The past two decades have seen an explosion of entrepreneurship and competition in the social sector, leveraging what the business sector learned from the railroad, the stock market and the digital revolution: Nothing is as powerful as a big new idea if it is in the hands of a first-class entrepreneur.

This revolution is fundamentally changing the way society organizes itself and the way we approach social problems. If business entrepreneurs are the catalysts and innovators behind economic progress, then social entrepreneurs are the catalysts and innovators behind social progress.

More Definitions

More about Social Entrepreneurship from the Skoll Foundation: (

Duke University's Fuqua Center of Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE): (


  1. Introduce the idea that there are different kinds of businesses. A person who begins a business is typically called an "entrepreneur." Discuss with students what motivates people who start and own businesses.
  2. Definition of Entrepreneur: "A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture." [French, from Old French, from entreprendre, to undertake. See enterprise below.]
  3. Enterprise:
    1. An undertaking, especially one of some scope, complication, and risk.
    2. A business organization.
    3. Industrious, systematic activity, especially when directed toward profit: Private enterprise is basic to capitalism.
    4. Willingness to undertake new ventures; initiative.
  4. Now introduce the idea of combining social concerns with business - what would you call that kind of business? What would motivate these kinds of business owners? What would they sell? What would they try to accomplish? Read and discuss the Web content, What is Social Entrepreneurship? Print the article "Compassionate Manufacturing: Aurolab Does Business with the Poor" and have students read through the process of how social entrepreneurship works.
  5. Connect to a computer with the sound enabled, and listen to the interview with David Green and how he describes "How Social Entrepreneurs Are Different". Engage students in a discussion of large-scale social problems. Introduce the concept of "the good idea funds the good." Help students understand what it means to be a social entrepreneur.
  6. Divide students into groups of three to four. Ask each group to discuss and answer the question. Students may choose to do research using the Internet (see resources). Teachers may choose to print some of the materials from the Web sites listed below as background reading material or homework.
    1. What does it mean for a person or a group to create "social wealth?"
    2. What are some examples of long-term change and short-term change?
    3. What is a "risk worth taking?" Provide examples.
    4. Give examples of a good idea that funds itself.
    5. Why would a person choose to be a social entrepreneur?
    6. What is compassionate capitalism?
    7. Could there be environmental entrepreneurs? What might they sell? What products would they create and why?
  7. Have students present their ideas to the class.

Key Concepts and Vocabulary

  • Entrepreneur, enterprise (above)
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Large-scale and long-term
  • Change agents
  • Generating social value, social wealth (compared to financial wealth)
  • Risk-taking
  • Compassionate capitalism
  • Measurable returns
  • Long-term change
  • The IDEA funds the IDEA
  • Creating a new paradigm

Suggestions for Connections

Connections to economics, math, business and career classes, and social studies.


Schools of business in US with social entrepreneurial graduate programs:

About David Green of Aurolab

David Green has developed a different economic paradigm for making medical products and services affordable to the poor in developing countries. "Compassionate capitalism" utilizes production capacity and surplus revenue to serve all economic strata, rich and poor alike. In this paradigm, profit is the MEANS to an END, not the other way around. In 1992, David directed the establishment of Aurolab in India, the first non-profit manufacturing facility in a developing country to produce affordable intraocular lenses (IOLs), suture (for wound closure), pharmaceuticals and eye glasses. Aurolab fulfilled the same regulatory requirements medical companies must fulfill for selling products in Europe. IOLs are artificial lenses which are implanted in the eye during a cataract operation, after the cloudy lens has been removed. Aurolab's selling price is $4-$6 per lens, compared to over $100 in the US. Aurolab is now one of the largest manufacturers of IOLs in the world, with 10 percent of the world market share. David is an Ashoka fellow and has also been recognized by Schwab Foundation as one of the leading social entrepreneurs in the world. David is now working on making an affordable hearing aid. Read More about Aurolab online.

Suggested Extensions

Students could extend this learning with the unit based on THE NEW HEROES episode of "Power of Enterprise." The unit is called "The Business of Doing Good" where students actually begin a small business.

Have the students engage with the experience online by exploring the "Build a Socially Conscious Business" online game.

About the Classroom Content

These teacher resources were developed by the Learning Innovation and Technology Consortium (LITC). LITC develops educational programs and materials in support of problem solving, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.