Social Entrepreneurism Case Study While the business entrepreneurs adopt different methodologies to have their business succeed and thus reap maximum profits, the case is entirely different for the social entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, for the social enterprises to thrive and succeed in their missions, the application of business knowledge and strategies is inevitable (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008). For business entrepreneurs, the achievement of the goals and objectives of an enterprise can occur without necessarily growing the enterprise and expanding it into greater heights. This is because, certain strategies that may include specialization, differentiation and merger and acquisition are some of the strategies that business enterprises can apply to reduce their operational costs and increase their efficiency, thus maximizing the profits.
All these strategies can be applied without changing the size of the firm, meaning that such an enterprise can thrive, optimize its profits and remain competitive without necessarily growing or expanding in its size. However, the case for the social enterprises is very different. For the social enterprises to thrive, reduce costs, achieve the economies of scale and reach as many intended people as possible, the enterprise has no other option but to grow (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).
The idea of any social enterprise is to saturate the market it serves completely, before embarking on reaching others, as opposed to a business enterprise, which can target a certain market niche, which might be small but still profitable. Therefore, for any social enterprise, scaling up has to start from the very beginning, and continue as the enterprise seeks to serve more markets. Therefore, scaling up must be built on any social enterprise from the beginning.
This was the case with John Wood and his Room to Read social enterprise. John Wood started by realizing the need for supplying the children in Nepal with books to read, since they barely had books (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008). He started this by writing emails to his friends after returning back from the trip to Nepal, where he had discovered the need to help such children to gain education, and thus manage to fight poverty. After a span of 2 months, the response he had obtained from the friends was encouraging, since he was able to collect three thousand children books, which he transported to Nepal the next year.
During the trip to transport the books, he decided to quit working in the corporate world and establish the Room to Read social enterprise, so that he could be able to champion for the provision of books to such children, who could not have access (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008). He had the conviction that through making the vision of providing education to millions of children possible, such children would be able to overcome poverty, since they could later engage in gainful employment and thus provide for themselves and their family.
This goal of fighting poverty could not be achieved by helping tens or hundreds of children. This is because; such a number is too small to make any major difference. Therefore, to impact greatly on poverty reduction, education needed to be availed to millions of children. This is the principle of scaling up the social enterprise from the beginning, where he collected books that were transported using 6 donkeys (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).
The number of books he had collected in 2 months, to the tune of three thousand, was sufficient to make a major difference, since such books would educate millions of children, and thus impact greatly in poverty reduction, which was his main goal of establishing the Room to Read social enterprise. In the bid to achieve the dream of fighting poverty, Room to Read social enterprise has faced various challenges, among them lack of books written in the local languages, such as Nepali, Khmer and Lao (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).
This challenge has forced John Wood to think of an alternative way through which the challenge can be addressed, bringing him to the strategy of adopting and training local authors, so that they can engage in writing books in the local languages, to enable the children to have access to education, to the tune of millions. Wood observes that without books written in the local languages, millions of children would still remain illiterate, and thus the war against poverty eradication will never be won, since without education for millions of children, any attempt to commit billions of money to fight poverty can never make a difference (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).
However, if such funds are dedicated towards availing the favorable environment and the requisite resources for children to obtain education, the cycle of poverty will be easily broken down. This is the stage where the Room to Read social enterprise is currently, working with the local authors and training them to write books in the local languages, so that education can be made accessible to millions of children living in such underdeveloped countries.
To uphold the fact that social entrepreneurship has to start with scaling up from the very beginning, Woods observes that the government needs to learn from the Room to Read social enterprise, by taking help to the citizen sector. He argues that the government should commit to growing the citizen sector, with a higher pace like that adopted by the blue chip companies when they identify a marketing opportunity (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008). The fight against poverty cannot be won by throwing billions of money towards poverty eradication.
However, the battle can easily be worn if the government invests in the citizen sector. This is because; the citizen sector is huge and comprises millions of people. Therefore, investing in the sector guarantees the government to eradicate poverty, since it will have impacted on a large group of people, as opposed to investing in other sectors, which might only impact on a relatively small number of people. Therefore, growth and scaling up from the beginning is the key to the achievement of the goals by the social enterprises.
This same model can be adopted by governments, through investing in areas that impact on a large number of people, since such investments would make a quick and greater impact, as opposed to investment worth large amounts of money, but impacting on a small number of people. The scaling up situation for John Wood and the Room to Read social enterprise is not unique to this enterprise only. The scaling up strategy must apply to most of the social enterprise and even the commercial enterprises, which are willing to serve certain unique needs of the people.
Another example of scaling up in social entrepreneurism is identifiable in the case of Rory Stear, the pioneer of the Freeplay Energy enterprise (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008). Rory developed the Rory Freeplay Energy radios, to create the accessibility of information to people in areas such as the sub-Saharan Africa, who cannot have any access to electricity or batteries to power the radio. Therefore, he developed the solar powered and the self-powered windup radios, which increases the accessibility of information to the rural communities situated in the remote areas, where the accessibility of grid electricity or batteries is impossible (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).
This enterprise has made it possible for over 8 million people to get information through such Freeplay radios. This is large number of people that have benefited from the activities of the enterprise, an aspect that has been made possible by scaling up the enterprise from the very beginning. By the year 2007, Rory Stear’s Freeplay Energy had managed to sell over 5 million products worldwide, courtesy of scaling up from the time it was established and produced its first product in 1996 (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).
This serves to indicate that scaling up is not only appropriate for John Wood’s Room to Read social enterprise, but all social enterprises, with the aim of making a greater impact on the life of the people they seek to serve. Reference Elkington, J. & Hartigan, P. (2008). The power of unreasonable people: How social entrepreneurs create markets that change the world. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.