In my experience of supporting various start-up programmes throughout the UK over the last 20 years, and having walked alongside many for part of their journey, most entrepreneurs don't call themselves that.
They're simply people trying to make a go of an idea to either help them fix a problem they see in their community or help them get a bit more financial security for themselves (usually both).
So I'm increasingly frustrated when I keep seeing national sector bodies re-enforcing a narrative that social and non-social entrepreneurs need special treatment that somehow doesn't seem to apply to the other:
- the School for Social Entrepreneurs recently posted about the 5 ways that social entrepreneurs best learn - but if you took out the 'social' in the title, you'd instantly recognise them as being exactly the same way that any non-social entrepreneur prefers to learn too...
- and the recent Good Deals conference emphasised the impact that being a social entrepreneur has on their mental health - echoing the findings of the World Economic Forums' own research into the mental health of all entrepreneurs around the world... (but not seeming to make any reference or links to this...)
It therefore seems that if you identify as social or not as an entrepreneur, you're probably going to be sharing the same needs, concerns, and preferences for how you access the support you want - and this isn't anything new either: cross-sector research I did into social enterprises, charities, and private businesses all the way back in 2003 (an era of dial-up internet!) found that regardless of which sector people identified as being part of, they all had the same development needs and shared preferences for how they accessed learning and training.
And to my mind that suggests that we're continuing to miss a trick in amplifying the impact that entrepreneurs could be making on society's problems, and the wider economy - why are we creating this artificial segregation of entrepreneurs based on their founding motivations, when the support they need is the same. And surely by learning and growing together they might better encourage, inspire, challenge, and ultimately "be" more than the sum of their respective camps..?
In the enterprise programmes I've been fortunate to have been able to manage and lead over the years, I've always sought to encourage such a 'mixing it up' philosophy, and although none were ever evaluated on the grounds of it being mixed-sector entrepreneurs, no-one in them seemed to have any problem in undertaking their journey as an entrepreneur with the others who had differing visions or motivations to their own.
So when we will we start to see (social) enterprise support agents admit that these divisions between sectors aren't really that valid or justifiable, and in doing so, be able to be more inclusive in releasing support into our wider communities and economies for the benefit of all..?