Last month, Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada held its second annual re:Vision conference on social entrepreneurship. The re:Vision series brings together some of Canada’s brightest young and emerging social entrepreneurs each spring to connect and drive this movement forward in their communities. This year, we convened around a vital question: Where is social entrepreneurship heading in the next five years?
It’s a question that has consumed our organizing team in the past few months as we’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible pick up in dialogue, events, and commercial activity reinventing the relationship between business and social change. With 100+ representatives of the next generation of social entrepreneurs present, we posed that question to the room. Here’s what they said:
- Popularity on campus. The crowd predicted that the majority of universities and colleges across the country would open robust programs or course sets on social entrepreneurship, innovation and finance.
- Billion dollar social businesses. Some foresaw a few social businesses breaking the small business ceiling and becoming large, scaled enterprises.
- Normalizing blended value. The idea of incorporating a social/environmental lens in corporate decision-making on par with the financial lens will become more mainstream, especially among start-ups and small businesses in which founders have tighter control of their venture’s decision-making apparatus.
- Socialwashing. Part two of the normalization of blended value will be “socialwashing”. Like the greenwashing effect that has challenged the integrity of the “green” label slapped onto any product, the marketing appeal of “social” designations will result in their attachment to some products and companies more as marketing veneers than as indications of core values.
- Scandals. Consequently, a few particularly bad socialwashing apples will find themselves unpleasantly exposed in the media. This spotlight will spark a public debate about the merits of social entrepreneurship that will, in the end, force the movement to articulate a more definitive identity, aided by an emerging landscape of certifications, measurement tools and legislation.
- Measuring sticks. Positive and negative buzz alike will necessitate the wide-scale adoption of standard methods for measuring social impact. These methodologies will be implemented across the landscape of foundations, institutional investors, consulting firms and entrepreneurs themselves, causing the emergence of a “language” of social impact.
This list represents only a select number of predictions, but it is useful as a gauge of the future envisioned by a sample of the emerging generation of social entrepreneurs. You may agree or disagree with their predictions, but whatever the case, we invite you to speak up.
What’s your take on where Canadian social entrepreneurship is headed in the next five years?
Assaf Weisz is executive director of the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada – the nation’s hub for young social entrepreneurs – and a supporter of their social enterprises.