What Social Enterprise Means to Ani Iyengar

By: Ani Iyengar

Ani Iyengar is a high school intern with Social Enterprise Greenhouse for Summer 2015. He wrote this essay about how he relates to social enterprise.

Social Enterprise is a business that has a primary purpose of common good by maximizing human and environmental well-being commercially. They can be either profit or nonprofit organizations. There are three characteristics that distinguish a social enterprise from other types of businesses, government agencies and organizations.A social enterprise directly addresses an intractable social need and serves the common good. This happens either through products or services of the enterprise itself, or through the amount of people at a disadvantage that it employs. Also, a social enterprise’s activity is a strong driver of revenue. This occurs as either a significant earned income streams within the nonprofit’s revenue portfolio, or simply for an enterprise that makes profit. Lastly, the common good is the primary purpose of the organization (cited here).

To me, social enterprises are impressive organizations that use the same principles as most for-profit businesses to benefit the social good. Social enterprise prioritizes social justice and well-being first, with earning revenue and income possibly being a secondary incentive. Social enterprise does not necessarily seem to feel or appear any different from a traditional business. The economic and structural values of both kinds of organization remain constant. The key distinguishing feature of a social enterprise is, that if you look beneath the surface, their mission to achieve an improvement in social justice lies above all other goals (cited here).

The nobility of social enterprises is what is particularly impressive to me. I would already consider an enterprise possibly compromising some of its earnings for the value of social justice. It is another story when the social goals are valued even higher than earning income and revenue. I previously did not know much about social enterprise, and how many organizations like this exist, but I have realized the importance of social enterprises after coming to SE Greenhouse. I understand that there are many altruistic individuals and organizations in the world, and I also understand that traditional businesses use effective methods of maximizing profit and prosperity. However, I realize now that a company that does good for those in need while also utilizing the same strategies that businesses use to earn revenue must be extremely effective and efficient in bringing positive change to communities.

The people who organize and start social enterprises are social entrepreneurs. They give paths of opportunity to people who would otherwise live a life that lacks hope. They are also regarded as society’s change agents, who transform and disrupt the status quo of daily life through creative innovations. Many outstanding qualities define social entrepreneurs. They are ambitious individuals who address major social challenges and problem, using a wide range of methods to operate in their organizations. They are mission driven, with the priority of social benefits being placed above all financial incentives. They use specific strategies to see opportunities that others may not be able to see. They are resourceful, using all aspects of material and technology to the benefit of social good. They are also extremely driven to receive the positive results they originally sought after (cited here).

Much like the aforementioned importance of social enterprises, I think the entrepreneurs that give birth to these enterprises are particularly impressive and important. Social entrepreneurs must have a vision of the future than most individuals will not be able to see. They see potential in the future of places where others see despair and hopelessness.One example of a famous social entrepreneur is Muhammad Yunus, who started the Grameen Bank, which sprouted after a small action that improved the lives of local citizens in impoverished Bangladesh in the mid 1970s. During this time, the country was devastated by poor finance and famine. In a certain village, willingly donated $27 to 42 people who needed the money to break out of poverty, so that they could return the money to the lenders, and break out of poverty. Yunus then sought to continue his charitable actions, which became the start of Yunus’ Grameen bank, which has now made over $5 billion in loans. It also serves as an essential model, which has been copied and utilized by banks all over the world. The bank that Yunus created spawned a global banking movement known as microfinance. Yunus went on to win the Nobel Peace Peace Prize in 2006 (cited here).

I believe that people like Muhammad Yunus have been essential in history, and will continue to be essential in the future. Many people need someone that is willing to sacrifice their time so that they can improve their chance to thrive. Not only do they need someone with charitable intentions, they need an entrepreneur that can start an organization that uses the same principles that major businesses use to earn the most profit, so that these areas will have the best chance of prosperity.


Ani Iyengar
Talent Retention Intern

Ani Iyengar is a rising Junior at the Wheeler School interning at Social Enterprise Greenhouse during the summer of 2015. For Ani, social enterprise is a marriage of his aptitude for economics, business and math, and his interest in social justice work through community service.

Contact: ani.iyengar22@gmail.com

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