These days so many of us don’t just want a varied career that path that helps pay the bills – that’s not enough. Instead, we want to work with cool people doing work that initiates serious change in the world around us and has measurable impact. And to satisfy these needs, it seems social entrepreneurship is what many young people in the UK are talking about right now. Perhaps it’s because social entrepreneurs create diverse working environments; the 2015 Social Enterprise Report revealed that 40% of them are led by women and 31% have BME directors, or maybe it’s down to the fact almost all social entrepreneurs use some of their profits to further social or environmental goals. Either way, social entrepreneurship can be ethical and valuable hence why people are interested in building their careers around it.

Below we lift the lid on the jam-packed lives of a couple social action aficionados, one of whom received funding from O2 to take their social project to the next level. And because it’s also #iwill Week in November 2017 (a campaign that shines a light on the impact that young people are having through social action opportunities) this is the perfect time to explain: what is social entrepreneurship? And can it help you secure a varied, interesting career?

So, what is social entrepreneurship really?

Social entrepreneurship is basically doing some or all business for a social cause or community impact. It can be applied to individuals, businesses or start-ups and is related to solutions that positively impact social, cultural, or environmental issues. And according to Investopedia a social entrepreneur is someone “who pursues novel applications that have the potential to solve community-based problems” and these people take on “risk and effort to create positive changes in society through their initiatives.”

social entrepreneur

What is a social entrepreneur? Why, Jessica Alba of course

Social action vs social entrepreneurship; what is the difference?

Social action is basically any good community deed that impacts others; think volunteering, lending your skills, helping an elderly neighbour etc – it doesn’t have to be a huge act, but one that benefits others. As #iwill notes, social action is shaped by six core principles; being youth-led, sustainable, progressive, socially impactful, challenging and accessible to all. Social entrepreneurship is a bit different but would come under the bracket of social action because although it may benefit others in part, most or some of the efforts of a social entrepreneur will probably be focused on creating a profit. However, many social entrepreneurs may be focused on helping or changing a community, or they will donate a portion of their earnings to doing so.

Who works in social entrepreneurship and social action?

Research suggests an increased interest in social entrepreneurship is a generational thing; millennials are more socially conscious than their parents and they crave work that makes them feel validated and has a real impact (call us narcissistic again if you dare). And here at Go Think Big we’ve got a couple of case studies of young people who were able to take their social projects to the next level due to either funding from O2, or their own initiatives.

Social Action

Keiran Harvey is one of Go Think Big’s big social action success stories; he started the Youth Radio Network (YRN) in his home area of West Lothian, Scotland a few years ago, after receiving funding from at just 14.  “We act as a soundboard for youth news and we focus on topical issues such as bullying, racism, LGBT issues and many more,” he explained. “Go Think Big and O2 helped me set it up and made me realise that people do care about these topics. I’m 16 – just turning 17 – but at 14 when I wanted to start my radio show, I couldn’t get taken seriously. Amazingly, O2 gave me funding in my name so we could test out different bits of software, get equipment and it changed my life, really.” Keiran has no plans to monetise the radio show for now and is doing the YRN purely for the passion.

Social Entrepreneurship

Jake Adams, an #iwill abbassador started his business Creative Print in Blackpool, when he was just 14 – (this is what social entrepreneurship really looks like guys). He told us: “We provide charities and other third sector organisations with business cards, leaflets, flyers, banners…any form of marketing collateral for them. But we do it at virtually trade price and we add very little mark-up on there. At the moment we have six employees and it’s going really well!”


Jake told us he was motivated to turn his idea into a business because he “saw how much the charities I worked with had to pay for printing and how it affected their funds that they needed to get their message out. The profit margins other printers make are quite phenomenal and that’s what made me start mine.”

How can I get my social entrepreneurship off the ground?

At Go Think Big we’re passionate about supporting community focused projects by passionate young people and to celebrate #iwill Week in November 2017, we’re currently offering 10 lucky individuals up to £500 in funding if they want to get their project off the ground. The #iwill campaign promotes social action in any way and encourages you to make a difference in your community, no matter how big or small, whether that’s campaigning, volunteering or social entrepreneurship. So if you’ve got a project idea that can benefit others and you’re eager to secure the funding and mentorship from us here at Go Think Big, check out our funding opportunity.  

Like this? How about…

 How social action can benefit your career

Volunteering helped me get my dream job

Want a career helping others? Try youth work