Social Entrepreneurship & the Mission of God Pt 1: What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Since we’ve stepped out of full-time church ministry into this new role at the Pro Deo Foundation, the number one question we get asked is, “What are you doing exactly?” This Thursday blog series will help answer that question from a high-level perspective. We would encourage you to explore our website for our program ideas, which will become how we practice social entrepreneurship. 

Today we begin a six-week Thursday morning blog series called “Social Entrepreneurship and the Mission of God.” That’s a mouthful. Let’s begin with the simple question,

“What is social entrepreneurship?”

Jean-Baptiste Say (1767–1832), a French economist, defined an entrepreneur as a person who “undertakes” an idea and shifts perspectives in a way that it alters the effect that an idea has on society; and as one who “shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.”[1] The entrepreneur aims to transform the trajectory of the bottom line. 

Similarly, the social entrepreneur seeks transformation, too. But instead of trying to transform the profit margin, the social entrepreneur’s aim to is to change society at large. This does not mean that all social entrepreneurship is nonprofit (I’ll address the “for profit” / “nonprofit” / “hybrid” distinction in a later post). It does mean that all social entrepreneurship is aimed at transforming society for the sake of the common good. Social entrepreneurs seek to discover innovative solutions to age-old societal challenges. They develop new products, systems, and programs that change people’s lives. Individuals or organizations, whether or not they classify as “social entrepreneurs” in the textbook sense, can practice social entrepreneurship in their organizations and their lives.

Next Thursday, I’ll address the theological question, “Does God care about social entrepreneurship?” What does this have to do with the Christian faith? We at Pro Deo Foundation believe it has everything to do with the Gospel, and particularly the Mission of God in the world. As we set out on this venture, we desire to be the body of Christ in the world. I don’t know that I would even say we are an extension of the church. We are just being the people of God in the world—in a non-profit way with an intent to bring a small change in a particular community with some hopefully innovative solutions—all in the name of and by the call of God in Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be part of God’s “making all things new.”

“Does God care about social entrepreneurship?” Click To Tweet

Our prayer is that we would see more of our society’s nonprofit, for-profit, religious and civil institutions all move increasingly in a “social entrepreneur” direction, at least in the broadest sense—to look for new ways to create pathways in people’s lives where there were cul-de-sacs before, and to encourage a new flourishing in society. For us, we believe that takes place at the very local level, the neighborhood.

In the translation of Eugene Peterson, “God so loved the world that he moved into the neighborhood” (John 3:16). More on that next week.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_entrepreneurship#History

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