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Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship

Defining social entrepreneurship

The Skoll Centre defines social entrepreneurship as the practice of combining opportunity, innovation, and resourcefulness to address critical social and environmental challenges. 

Social entrepreneurs focus on transforming systems and practices that are the root causes of poverty, marginalisation, environmental deterioration, and accompanying loss of human dignity. Socially entrepreneurial activity happens across fields - from health to climate change to education - and across sectors - from non-profit to commercial to governmental.

Social entrepreneurship is systemic rather than palliative, makes use of market forces where possible, and continuously monitors its outputs to refine its approaches.

Who are Social Entrepreneurs? 

so•cial en•tre•pre•neur  n., 1. society’s change agent: pioneer of innovations that benefit humanity

Social entrepreneurs are drivers of change. Together with institutions, networks, and communities, social entrepreneurs create solutions that are efficient, sustainable, transparent, and have measurable impact.

Social entrepreneurs are united by their ability to:

  • Adopt a mission to create and sustain social value (not just commercial value)
  • Recognise and relentlessly pursue new opportunities to serve that mission
  • Engage in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning
  • Act boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
  • Exhibit a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

(From "The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship" Greg Dees, 1998)

A systems approach

The classic social entrepreneurs who establish and build new businesses and organisations are only part of a much wider social entrepreneurship ecosystem. Effectively tackling systemic challenges to create sustainable equilibrium change requires deep understanding of complex problems, a wide range of people with different roles and skill sets, and partnerships between organisations ranging from private sector players through to activists, civil society and government.

At the same time as supporting social entrepreneurs to establish new ventures, the Skoll Centre actively promotes deep learning and systems approaches through our research initiatives, the Global Challenge, and our Apprenticing with a Problem awards. We encourage awareness of teamwork and collaboration through the Leading for Impact programme, and we celebrate the work of ambitious impact-driven changemakers across all sectors including government and charity. Our Skoll Scholarship programme supports fully funded access to the Oxford MBA not only for social business founders but equally for entrepreneurial leaders from the public sector and civil society.


Contact us
Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
+44 (0)1865 288838