Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities

It is no secret that we are living in a world full of social injustice. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by messages of inequality, oppression, political strife, and human violation.

To some, the situation may seem dire and many may feel helpless. In a time when the media may lead us to believe that we are fighting a losing battle, trying to impact the world in a positive way may seem overwhelming and unrealistic. Fortunately, Zachary D. Kaufman and his fellow contributors to Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities: Changing Our World illustrate that we already have everything we need to begin the process of making the world a more just place.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was a time of optimism and renewed hope that we would be able to move the world forward and make it a better place. Unfortunately, while some gains have been made since 1989, we have experienced a multitude of human tragedies. From two major genocides of magnitudes unprecedented since the Holocaust of World War II to the rise of ethnic conflict and escalating anti-Americanism, we are facing challenges that are often too great and interconnected for states alone to combat. Even when governments or individual states try to step in, they often unintentionally exacerbate issues or leave behind new wounds to be dealt with.

This is where social entrepreneurship comes into play; but before we can look to social enterprise for help in creating solutions to some horrific problems, we first need to understand exactly what social enterprise is. Because the field of social entrepreneurship is so young, it can be hard to define, but the book provides a good starting point: “Social Entrepreneurship is in essence the privatization and secularization of activities that used to be considered the sole responsibility and province of government and religion. Social Entrepreneurship often serves to ameliorate market failures. Not only do social entrepreneurs seek to fill gaps in existing political, social, economic, and legal systems, but these entrepreneurs also endeavour to rectify many of the very problems these systems often inadvertently create.”

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Everyone is a Change Maker

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Meade

The wise words of Margaret Meade have never been truer than they are today. Even though our world is facing a host of serious and often appalling challenges, the great news is we can all contribute to positive change. Often times the biggest barrier we face when trying to deal with social injustice is a lack of confidence in our abilities and potential solutions to the problems society struggles with.

The first and most important step to overcoming the obstacle of insecurity is to give ourselves permission to look at problems objectively and realize that we can solve them. Giving ourselves permission to fix a problem and then acting on those impulses is what will ultimately change our world. With the amount of people that inhabit this earth, there is no way for problems to outnumber solutions.

As Bill Drayton, the Founder, Chair, and CEO of Ashkoka: Innovators for the Public says in his foreword, “Social Entrepreneurship can be the rule, not the exception.”

This idea is best illustrated by the individuals that are profiled throughout the book. These individuals are neither brain surgeons nor astrophysicists but rather a group of committed, passionate, and often young people who saw that the world needed changing and gave themselves permission to come up with and act upon solutions.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Find Your Passion

"Entrepreneurship is often most successful when it is driven by value-based faith. From motivating the individual to engage in the entrepreneurial activity in the first place, to persuading others around her to support the initiative and trust the entrepreneur, deeply rooted and life-defining values inspire and compel."
- Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities, page xxxv

Most successful pursuits in life result from a moment of obligation. This moment occurs when individuals begin to discover what inspires and motivates them and this then helps individuals recognize the ability they have to make a unique contribution, thus leading them to start chasing their passions.

Although it is important to be engaged in things that we are passionate about in any area of life, it is absolutely imperative when becoming involved with a social enterprise.

Because social enterprise seeks to change the injustice in the world, these ventures can face many difficulties in even getting off the ground. From finding a committed team of individuals to help with your mission to securing limited financial backing, while also considering language, cultural differences, and distance issues for organizations operating in foreign countries, social enterprises face many challenges.

Being passionate about your cause is what will keep you committed to seeing your pursuit through, even when the chips are down. Find your passion and then step out boldly. Passion is integral to the success of a social enterprise.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Collaboration is Key

"Many of the world’s problems must be addressed at the global level. Today’s needs, exemplified in this book by atrocities, are often so complicated and challenging that they demand international collaboration on solutions."
- Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities, page xxxv

Society teaches us from a young age that to not only survive but to also thrive in our world we need to learn how to play well with others. We need to share and to be team players not only in order for ourselves to be successful but also for any project or organization we are a part of to be triumphant.

Throughout each case study in the book, collaboration was a trait common amongst all the social entrepreneurs. Despite different backgrounds, different educations, and passions for different social issues, each entrepreneur was not only a leader but also a team player. These individuals knew not only how to share information with others but also how to work with other organizations toward achieving common goals and desired results.

In the area of social enterprise, collaboration is essential because there are many organizations working toward some of the same goals. A huge number of these organizations compete for funding. Collaborating with these other organizations as well as with local governments helps to eliminate redundancies and also helps ensure each organization is successful in fulfilling their individual missions.

If you want to help, it is important to make sure there is actually a market or a need for a specific service. The only way to ensure this is through due diligence and working with others. Also, because most social enterprises are using financial resources donated by outsiders, it is imperative to make sure those funds are being put to good use. None of the organizations profiled in the book would have been successful without collaboration.


Although Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities was not quite the book I thought it was going to be, it was fascinating and highly informative. For anyone looking to help create positive change in our world, this book offers a lot of practical advice from individuals that have gone before us and stepped out to create solutions to some of our biggest social challenges.

If nothing else, this book will leave individuals feeling inspired and motivated that we can actually positively influence the lives of others.

What can you do today to start making the world a better place?

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Crystal McLachlen

ABOUT Crystal McLachlen

I am a 29 year old woman who loves life, and everything that it has to offer. I am a firm believer that we are given a gift of infinite possibilities so long as we are willing to work for it and put ourselves out there...
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