A few people have asked me recently what #socent is on Twitter, with one friend even assuming it was something to do with 50 Cent (classic, Sheri!).

So, for those who did not know, #socent = social entrepreneur. There you go.

But what does it mean to be a social entrepreneur? What qualifies an entrepreneur as social per se? According to Ashoka, “Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems.” In Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, Sally Osberg and Roger Martin wrote:

The social entrepreneur should be understood as someone who targets an unfortunate but stable equilibrium that causes the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity; who brings to bear on this situation his or her inspiration, direct action, creativity, courage, and fortitude; and who aims for and ultimately affects the establishment of a new stable equilibrium that secures permanent benefit for the targeted group and society at large.

A social entrepreneur is an entrepreneur who aims to have a social or environmental impact with their work, generating social value (versus financial value or profits like traditional entrepreneurs). This brand of entrepreneur often has innovative and out-of-the-box solutions for longstanding development problems, from low-cost housing for the poor like Ansaar Management Company (AMC) in Lahore to solar energy lighting for developing communities like Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh. Bill Drayton, the CEO and Founder of Ashoka, once noted,

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.

Social entrepreneurs are not restricted by for-profit or non-profit labels. As Marty Zwilling noted in Business Insider, “A social enterprise must be financially sustainable only as a means to the end, which is its social or environmental impact and rate of change. The business entrepreneur mission is profit always, social impact maybe.”

The term, even now, is fluid and begs the question – do we need to qualify entrepreneurs with a primarily social mission as social entrepreneurs, or is the entrepreneur label enough? Are we muddying the waters by delineating between the two or is the distinction exceptionally clear? In countries like Pakistan, where social entrepreneurship is taking hold and is still not part of the vernacular, how do we market that narrative? That’s for you to weigh in dear readers.