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Social Enterprise Ideas from Around The World

by Nandita Batheja

There’s a hot fashion sweeping over the world. It’s called the Triple Bottom Line approach, or the 3 Ps, and no, it isn’t a radical and subversive embracing of the panty line.

Triple Bottom Line is a new (ish) way to structure a company. Instead of measuring success based off financial gain, the company evaluates its performance in three different realms: 

  • Social [People]
  • Environmental/Ecological [Planet]
  • Financial [Profit] 

These firms—sometimes referred to as social enterprises or social impact companies—aim to positively impact people and the environment, while still making enough money to sustain their work. Often times they sound like nonprofits: they have mission statements, theories of change and are tackling major social and/or environmental issues. Sometimes they sound more like old-school companies: they have a product to sell and want to be at the top of the market. The difference? Social enterprises don’t have to rely on donations or grants like nonprofits do. And unlike standard businesses, they make a promise to their employees, their customers and the earth to consider them as equal stakeholders to their investors.


Social Enterprise Business Model

(Image Credit: The Social MBA)

No matter where on the spectrum they fall, social enterprises share the value of creating a better world through their business practice. As Greyston Bakery says, “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” 

So what does a social enterprise look like in practice? A whole lot of things. It can be a company like Solar Sister: a clean energy technology business that empowers women with economic opportunity through their hiring (a win-win!). It can be like Greyston: employing individuals regardless of background or work history in order to provide skills and resources to lift them out of poverty. It can be a ethical children’s fashion company that uses organic cotton and earth-friendly practices to create a sustainable line of beautiful clothes ;).

Bakery as a Social Impact Company

(Image Credit: Greyston Bakery)

The Schwab Foundation selected 17 Social Entrepreneurs of 2017 from around the world to highlight their outstanding and innovative work. The list is a great introduction to what social change can look like. Here are some highlights!


1) Malik Ahmad Jalal & Fayeeza Naqvi

Aman Foundation

Area of Impact: Pakistan

Country: Pakistan

“Aman Foundation offers a community based, prevention-oriented and affordable healthcare model for Pakistani cities. Sukh, Aman’s community health program focused on family planning, reproductive and child health supports 1 million people. Aman ambulances, the first of its kind in the country, attend to over 100,000 cases a year, addressing 46 percent of Karachi’s medical emergency needs within a response time of under 12 minutes. Aman adopts an entrepreneurial approach of using its seed capital to incubate social enterprises and leverage external funding partnerships and service agreements with governments to scale them.”


2) Neichute Doulo

Entrepreneurs Associates

Area of Impact: India

Country: India

“Entrepreneurs Associates (EA) promotes entrepreneurship as a tool for peace building and youth engagement in the highly resource constrained and politically turbulent environment in Nagaland, India. Working together with partners such the Nagaland government, commercial banks and community organizations such as churches and schools, EA has successfully laid the foundations of a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem. Till date, over 60,000 Nagas have participated in EA’s awareness building events, over 4500 have set up successful enterprises that has in turn created over 17000 new jobs in the region. In partnership with commercial banks, EA has channelled over USD 30 million in bank loans to Naga households, an amount that is 36 times its own budget.”


3) Gretory Dajer & Nga Tuyet Trang

Medical Technology and Transfer Service (MTTS)

Area of Impact: Asia, Africa

Country: Vietnam

“MTTS is a social enterprise that designs, manufactures and sells locally appropriate, high-quality medical devices to treat the most common causes of neonatal mortality and morbidity in low-resource countries. Seventy five percent of the causes of neonatal deaths are preventable through the MTTS LifeKit suite of products, which includes: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines for respiratory distress syndrome; radiant warmers for hypothermia; and phototherapy devices for jaundice. The MTTS product portfolio is highly cost competitive and are made using locally sourced materials for easy maintenance and requires no consumable parts, further lowering the operating costs. To date, MTTS products have been installed in 350 hospitals in 25 countries around the world. Nearly half a million babies have been treated directly with MTTS devices – 75,000 of these in 2016 alone – and 1.3 million have benefitted through the supportive services offered along with the equipment.”


4) Vivek Maru & Sonkita Conteh


Area of Impact: Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, Uganda, Bangladesh, India

Country: USA

“Namati trains and deploys community paralegals who help people to understand, use, and shape the laws that affect them. Together with grassroots groups in 8 countries, Namati has supported 54,000+ clients to protect community lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to healthcare and citizenship. Drawing on case data, they advocate for improvements to policies and systems that affect millions of people. Namati convenes the Global Legal Empowerment Network, the world’s largest community of grassroots justice practitioners.”


5) Kimbal Musk

The Kitchen

Area of Impact: USA

Country: USA

“A family of businesses that pursue an America where everyone has access to real food. His restaurants source food directly from American farmers, his non-profit builds outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in underserved schools across America. His urban, indoor vertical farming accelerator seeks to empower a new generation of real food entrepreneurs.”


6) Eleanor Allen

Water For People

Area of Impact: Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, India

Country: USA

“Water For People promotes the development of high-quality drinking water and sanitation services, accessible to all, and sustained by strong communities, businesses, and governments. Its impact model is called Everyone Forever, meaning Water For People aims to reach every family, clinic, and school with lasting and sustainable water and sanitation services. Through this model, Water For People partners with local institutions and leverages donor funds to grow local capacity and advocate to national governments in the countries where they work. Water For People’s work has impacted 4 million people in nine countries with access to reliable drinking water.”

Check out the full list on their site!

And if you’re interested in more resources like this, you’ll find great stories on social impact on our blog.

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Social Enterprise Ideas from Around The World

y Nandita Batheja There’s a hot fashion sweeping over the world. It’s called the Triple Bottom Line approach, or the 3 Ps, and no, it isn’t a radical and subversive embracing of the panty line. Triple
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