About a month ago we wondered what exactly social entrepreneurship is? It appears the debate continues to rage (h/t SmartSolutionsk12). NYT columnist David Brooks wrote a positive piece on it and popular education blogger Alex Russo came out negatively in response. In one sense, its doesn’t matter what the theoretical argument is, we see campus entrepreneurs that fit the definition of social entrepreneurs more and more often and there doesn’t appear to be an end in site.
The older do-gooders had a certain policy model: government identifies a problem. Really smart people design a program. A cabinet department in a big building administers it.
But the new do-gooders have absorbed the disappointments of the past decades. They have a much more decentralized worldview. They don’t believe government on its own can be innovative. A thousand different private groups have to try new things. Then we measure to see what works.
Their problem now is scalability. How do the social entrepreneurs replicate successful programs so that they can be big enough to make a national difference?
Basically, what’s being described is a fad. Dressed up as something new and shiny, social entrepreneurship isn’t that different from regular old philanthropy and reform. It works outside the system. It’s generally small-scale. It relies on outside funding. There’s an awfully cozy, clubby feel to it. It doesn’t, far as I’ve ever heard, close down failing efforts or even admit to failures like you’d see in the “real” world of venture capital. It doesn’t really have any big successes, measured in terms of broad and positive impact, in education.
Any thoughts? Is this all just a new fad or is there something different going on with today’s socially oriented entrepreneurs?