Social entrepreneurs create innovative solutions for tackling the world’s most vexing social problems.
Whether they’re solving hunger, improving the environment, or fighting for political freedom, these entrepreneurs place social missions at the center of their business activities — aiming to maximize social value instead of profits, though both are important for maintaining a sustainable organization.
As a result, social enterprises come in both for-profit and not-for-profit models, though some believe the secret to a successful social enterprise is acting like a business.
Raviv Turner, cofounder and CEO of Guerillapps — a startup focused on developing social games to support real-world causes — would agree that successful social entrepreneurs are the ones taking queues from their for-profit counterparts. Passion and drive, though, are also essential components.
We recently spoke with Turner, and he set us straight on the necessary steps to becoming a social entrepreneur. Ripe with examples and tips, Turner pointed to five key learnings for taking the journey towards social entrepreneurship.
1. Identify a Social Problem
The first step to becoming a social entrepreneur is identifying a social problem in need of a solution. Like with any business, it makes more sense to create a product around a known problem, rather than creating a product and then deciding which problem it may be able to solve.
Aspiring social entrepreneurs need not look too far to find social issues in need of solving: poverty, hunger, poor education, environmental damage, political suppression, disease, and social inequality are just a few problems that readily present themselves.
Guerillapps, though initially founded as a mobile web development studio, decided in 2010 to use its knowledge in mobile and social apps to develop social games that motivate users to take up more environmentally-friendly behaviors.
Passionate about recycling and seeing that U.S. recycling rates have lagged around 30% for the past few years, Turner and his team decided to tackle the issue by creating a game that encouraged users to recycle in their daily lives in order to advance in the online game. The social game, Trash Tycoon, is available as a Facebook app and has attracted 400,000 users.
2. Sign Strategic Partnerships
“From a corporate perspective, you want to align your brand with organizations that have a good track record but also align closely with your ideals,” says Turner. “Beyond corporate partnerships, you need to be watching for companies who can help you to achieve your end goal.”
For startups, Turner says that great partners are those that can put fledgling social enterprises in front of the consumer bases they have yet to develop, while also helping them meet their goals.
For Guerillapps, the end goal is sparking eco-friendly behaviors in consumers. He says it was imperative that the company turn to corporations with pre-developed day-to-day connections with consumers, as well as those companies already working on improving recycling efforts in the offline world.
Guerillapps has attracted partnerships with the likes of TerraCycle, Carbonfund.org, TreeHugger, and Kraft. Through its partnership with TerraCycle — a frontrunner in the upcycling movement — Trash Tycoon enables users to earn virtual bonuses for upcycling in real life. Users can also feel better about purchasing virtual goods within the game, as 10% of revenues from the game’s virtual currency are donated to Carbonfund.org. Each month, players can choose from three differing carbon offset projects to support.
Guerillapps is all about getting its product in front of the right eyeballs; its partnership with TreeHugger, one of the biggest green blogs on the Internet, ensures that its latest news reaches the right audience.
The startup has made way in forming brand alliances as well — it inked a deal with Kraft Natural Cheese brands that entailed the incorporation of a new level aimed around helping one of the game characters reach her goal of operating a cheese shop.