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Social entrepreneurship: The business of making change

Social entrepreneurship: The business of making change

Queen’s Young Leaders share tips for starting up

Image above: Sandals made from waste products by young people in Nigeria, with the help of social enterprise, Durian

Social enterprises are a sustainable and increasingly popular way to create a positive future. In the first of a three-part series, Leading Change spoke to two social entrepreneurs – Queen’s Young Leaders, Aditya Kulkarni and Tony Joy – to find out more about getting started.

Starting a social enterprise

Social entrepreneurship requires bold thinkers who are passionate about solving social problems with creative and innovative solutions.

Tony Joy notes that lots of people are drawn to the success stories attached to social entrepreneurship, especially the way people’s lives are changing. But social entrepreneurship is more than that.

“The path of social entrepreneurship is a prescription on its own,” says Tony. “It’s not something you wake up one morning and decide to establish. You have to feel it. You have to know this is what your life is all about, because you will face several challenges.”

Another key ingredient, she says, is “much emotional intelligence”.

“Sometimes, the people you are trying to create a change for – or working with – are the ones that will frustrate you. But you have to press forward.”

What a social enterprise is and isn’t

Running a social enterprise isn’t the same as running an ordinary business or charity organisation. While making a profit is the bottom line of businesses, social enterprises focus on solving social problems through entrepreneurial means.

According to Tony, “Social entrepreneurship is about looking at problems and solving them, not just on the surface but on a deeper level to make lives better.”

Teaching rural women how to make soaps from cocoa pods

Durian teaches rural women how to make soaps from cocoa pods

Aditya notes that “Your social enterprise is not going to quickly scale up like e-commerce startups and you should be ready to nurture it overtime.”

Knowing what you want

Tony recommends volunteering to find what interests you. 

“Try it all, overtime you will discover where you fit in. Overtime, your heart will cling to the one that you know that even if you fail at it, you will still pick it up again. Subsequently, the other social causes you are interested in will connect to that one thing you are most passionate about.”

Another factor that can inform your decision is to connect your passion to your personal story. 

“There is something about your individual story that will point you to where you are supposed to go to,” says Tony. “Ask your friends and family members who know you very well what were those things you were doing when you were young? What were those things you said you wanted to do when you were 16? What are those areas you have been involved in along the way?”

Finding your purpose

Tony is the founder of Durian – a social enterprise that empowers rural communities to be self-sufficient by teaching them how to transform their rubbish into items of value.  The idea for Durian was initiated by Tony’s life experiences.

After losing her dad at age 12, Tony fell into serious depression for many years and left home.

“I found myself in a world of hunger, poverty and homelessness. All of these led to a feeling of worthlessness, shame, and internal hatred,” she says. 

But she drew strength from being around people and doing things connected to art.

In 2016, Tony started Durian with the dream of connecting with young people who considered their lives worthless. Drawing on her passion for environmental sanitation and waste management, she gathered a team of young people to clean a dumpsite.

“I realised that there is more to waste,” she says, explaining, “My story has a connection to waste but not waste that should be left on the side, waste that should be used to tell another story. And that was how the psychology of working with people who are marginalised grew.”

Spotting the problem

In developing countries like India, maternal and child mortality rates are high and access to personalised healthcare is limited to only those who can afford it.

In 2015, Aditya established CareNx Innovation to provide complete pregnancy care solutions in remote parts of India where healthcare is not easily accessible.

“When we started, we realised that basic tests such as monitoring blood pressure aren’t available for almost 70% of pregnant women in India,” says Aditya.

Together with his partner, Aditya created a mobile app to bridge the gaps in healthcare access. For the pilot phase, they provided health workers with this mobile application and a healthcare kit.

“We noticed this access gap in the healthcare sector and we decided to enable these hospitals.”

So far, CareNx has helped over 100,000 mothers in nine states in India, as well as in Bangladesh and Kenya.

Read part two of this series, Social entrepreneurship: Getting equipped.

Tony Joy

“Social entrepreneurship is about looking at problems and solving them, not just on the surface but on a deeper level to make lives better.”

Tony Joy

Aditya Kulkarni

“Your social enterprise is not going to quickly scale up like e-commerce startups and you should be ready to nurture it overtime.”

Aditya Kulkarni