How Do Social Entrepreneurs Know They Are Doing Good?

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Jonathan Greenblatt is a serial social entrepreneur with a string of successes. He has helped to build several brands, including Ethos Water, which was bought by Starbucks in 2005. He also worked with Google and was, until last month, the director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation at the White House. From July 1 he became the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Greenblatt was named a senior fellow at the Wharton School in December 2014.

Throughout his career, Greenblatt has helped to evolve what the idea of social entrepreneurship means. In a recent interview with Katherine Klein, vice dean of Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative, Greenblatt talked about the business of social impact: Where it has been, where it is headed, and how we can tell if a company is doing the good it aspires to do.

An edited transcript appears below.

Katherine Klein: What is a social entrepreneur?

Jonathan Greenblatt: I [use] a definition that was laid out many years ago by Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation, and Roger Martin, who’s the dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, Canada. I think about a social entrepreneur as someone who tries to create change through a market-based approach. That is while taking direct action. Not necessarily lobbying or doing advocacy, but literally going in and creating something — that is, trying to do so in order to create, or let’s say, fix a broken disequilibrium.

It’s not someone who is trying to do something on the outside that is causal, but instead trying to create systemic change and repair a difficult societal ill. The social entrepreneur creates direct action to fix a broken system.

“The social entrepreneur creates direct action to fix a broken system.”

Katherine Klein: For profit, necessarily? continue reading here