Social Entrepreneurship


“There are people not a few, whose circumstances are desperate and who cry out for help and relief. There are so many who are hungry and destitute among this world who need help…. My brothers and sisters, I would hope, I would pray that each of us…would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love.”
—President Gordon B. Hinckley

Definition: Social en-tre-pre-neur n: one who conceives, organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of an enterprise created for the good of society. This is a relatively new concept that is beginning to get considerable attention in terms of conferences, publications, and applied interventions. I developed a course, OB 490 “Social Entrepreneurship” in the late 1990s to explore its meaning and practice, particularly as it relates to college students. I’ve begun to do presentations on the topic, attend gatherings, and explore how to build Social Entrepreneurship (SE) into a global movement. Based on my discussion session at the First Skoll Global Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at SAID Business School, Oxford University in March 2004, I’m now partnering with colleagues there to create a worldwide SE academic network, the first of its kind. If you want an in-depth exploration of this growing phenomenon, check out the new book, How to Change the World, by my friend, David Bornstein. Details about this volume and selected excerpts can be accessed by clicking here.

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”
Albert Einstein

” ‘Red Power:’ Indigenous Culture Change Toward Self Sufficiency,” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, Vol. 11, January 2022, 11 pp.

“Accelerating the Growth of Microfinance Worldwide: Unitus as a Strategy,” Journal of Social Business, Glasgow University, Vol. 11, No. 1, June 2021.

“To Become a Social Entrepreneur You Must be Crazy, Radical, & Tear Down the Pyramids,”
(Woodworth PPT at University of Utah, 2019)

“Latino Microfinance: Ten Years of Lessons Learned,” Lend for America Conference, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 2014.

“Arise Armenia: How to Start an NGO Using Entrepreneurship Paradigms, Practices, and Ecosystems,” Utah Valley University, 2020.

Working Toward Zion: Principles of the United Order for the Modern World, Aspen Books, with James W. Lucas, 484 pp.

Various NGOs: Sustain Haiti 2010 village training
Transforming Students into Social Entrepreneurs

Below is a list of social entrepreneurial activities I have engaged students in doing over the past decade. Some have been course projects, some have been internships, some have been research-focused, and yet others hands-on training, design and/or implementation projects. In all cases, my objective has been to empower students with a vision of how they can take initiative, address real societal problems, and build civil society. BYU social entrepreneurs are students operating as consultants/change-agents around the globe helping marginalized people, especially Third World women, to learn new skills, become empowered, and move toward self-reliance. These individuals are trained in problem-solving and participatory evaluation methods to assist the poorest of the poor in their quest toward a higher quality of life.

  1. H.E.L.P. Honduras – 46 students from BYU, UVSC, U of U, Ricks, and Stanford doing humanitarian service (Red Cross, refugee camps, orphanages, teaching, literacy, rebuilding houses) after Hurricane Mitch’s destruction, and engaging in microcredit projects (organizing village banks, expanding banks with new capital, training microentrepreneurs) to build self reliance (1999-2000).
  2. H.E.L.P. International – Over 200 students from 7 colleges and universities including BYU, U of U, UVSC, USU, Colorado State, Stanford and Virginia Tech, serving since summer 2000 in Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Brazil empowering the poor through microcredit strategies and community service (2000-2004).
  3. Fiji Development Project – 21 students teaching social, computer and business skills to Pacific Islanders through intense local classes and distance learning courses as well (1999-2000).
  4. Guatemala Microlending – 4 BYU students working with an indigenous women’s rural organization, MUDE, to expand their effectiveness in lifting the poor, and also working with Mentores Empresariales in Guatemala City.
  5. Academy for Creating Enterprise (ACE) – 3 BYU students explored the feasibility and helped plan to establish ACE in late 1999 to provide skills and jobs for Filipino young adults. So far, some 500 have received loans, and started their own businesses (1999-2003).
  6. Grameen Foundation USA – 7 BYU student interns working for the U.S. arm of the Grameen Bank, while another 3 interned at the bank in Bangladesh, which originated microcredit around the globe (1997-2003).
  7. Community & Child Development – 9 students offering various skills to South African nonprofit groups seeking a better quality of life, microcredit, small business education, etc.
  8. Liahona Foundation – 5 BYU students assessed the program effectiveness of a Nigerian physician, Dr. Hassan, who has begun village banking for the poor, and is also building a hospital for needy Nigerians (1999-2001).
  9. American Indian Services – 6 students teaching and helping to manage 4 schools on Native American tribal reservations as well as designing the construction of low-cost housing in indigenous Guatemalan villages (1994-2001).
  10. Bulgarian Cooperative – 3 students evaluating an industrial cooperative, Nachala, owned by its workers; also assessing the feasibility of launching a microcredit program in the capital city, Sophia.
  11. Latin American Pilot Program – 6 BYU students field-testing lessons in business fundamentals in Mexico, designed to help young adults become successful in the labor market.
  12. USA – 3 graduate student interns with Working Capital, Inc. helping to establish microlending resources for poor people, mostly immigrants from the Caribbean, in Florida. Another student spent a summer working with Accion in New York City, and another with Katalysis in California (2002).
  13. Family Focus – 6 students serving a nonprofit organization that seeks to strengthen U.S. families.
  14. Chasqui Humanitarian Foundation of the Andes – 8 BYU students (1998-2001) doing Third World development in rural villages of Peru where thousands of indigenous people suffer. Programs include health, literacy, agriculture, microenterprises, etc. It has now expanded to Bolivia where 2 more BYU interns served.
  15. PRINCE Cooperative System – 4 BYU students developing a strategic design and implementation plan that culminated in the creation of a worker-owned cooperative in urban Nairobi, Kenya (1999-2000).
  16. Navajo Nation – 1 business student working on the Navajo reservation to help establish an effective microlending program for poor Native Americans.
  17. Enterprise Mentors International (EMI) – 6 students helped conduct a needs analysis of Filipino poverty in 1989 that led to the creation of EMI in 1990. Since then it has grown to include 12 offices for seven NGOs throughout the Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Mexico (1990-2004).
  18. Ouelessebougou-Utah Alliance – 7 students from BYU, U of U, and Harvard helped design and implement a microfinance system of village banking and women’s producer cooperatives in Mali, West Africa, as well as doing impact assessment research on the Alliance’s results among approximately 50,000 indigenous people in some 80 rural villages: water wells, gardens, health care, reforestation, schools for children, literacy for adults, and economic development.
  19. Unitus – 3 students received internships in 1999-2001 to work with Unitus in designing a strategy for accelerating microcredit. Current efforts are focused in Mexico and India with over 40,000 microentrepreneurs.
  20. SOAR China – 12 social entrepreneurs evaluating two microcredit programs in Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces, and a team conducting microentrepreneurship training in cooperation with the Sichuan Provincial Women’s Federation (2000-2003).
  21. New Generation Foundation – two students designing and implementing a strategic plan to empower the poor of southern Brazil including microenterprise, square foot gardening, literacy, family counseling, etc.
  22. South Pacific Business Development Foundation – four students have labored to assist the microfinance organization in Samoa by building a data base and upgrading SPBD’s training materials (2003).
  23. Reach The Children – Since 2000 some eight BYU volunteers have worked to expand the impact of this NGO in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and elsewhere in alleviating human suffering.
  24. Paramita Group – Started by several BYU Students in 2000, the group integrates the teachings of Buddhist monks with microcredit strategies to empower Tibetan immigrants in Thailand refugee camps.
  25. Over 20 BYU students have labored to do research and provide medical assistance to victims of the Buruli Ulcer in Ghana, West Africa through HART (1996-2004).
  26. Global Self-Reliance, Inc. – An MPA student and professor have created a new nonprofit consulting enterprise to give technical assistance to start-up NGOs combating poverty (2002-2004).
  27. Micro Business Mentors – sixteen BYU students have worked for 18 months researching, doing needs analyses, designing and launching a new social purpose venture that offers an 8-session training program, microloans, and entrepreneurial mentoring to poor, inner-city Latin immigrants in Utah (2002-2003).
  28. Empowering Nations – five students have worked since 2002 to do a feasibility study and then incorporate as a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides humanitarian service (education, literacy, economic development) in southern Brazil and Somaliland, East Africa.
  29. Over two dozen BYU students have provided short-term service to such programs as the Rose Foundation Schools in Guatemala, Cumorah Schools in Mexico, Engage Now (Ethiopia), Cause for Hope (Honduras & Nicaragua), Universidad Hispana in Utah, Save the Generation in Zimbabwe, NGO Family Voice at the United Nations. Others have enjoyed internships with LDS Church welfare projects, the Perpetual Education Fund, Employment Centers, Church Humanitarian Services, and LDS Charities.
  30. Wave of Hope–several dozen students from BYU and across America mobilized to rebuild the lives of the Asian tsunami survivors in Thailand.
  31. Arise Armenia–2020 start-up of new NGO to help strengthen villages and improve quality of life for rural Armenians.

“We will take a moral view, a political view, and see the inequality that exists in the human family…. It is an unequal condition to mankind…. What is to be done? The Latter-day Saints will never accomplish their mission until this inequality shall cease on the earth.”
Brigham Young

Social Entrepreneurship Publications

“Developing Social Entrepreneurs and Social Innovators: A Social Identity and Self-Efficacy Approach,” Academy of Management Learning and Education (AMLE), Volume 11, Number 3, September 2012, (with Isaac Smith), pp. 390-407

“Social Business in Times of Crisis: Microcredit Strategies During Social Unrest and/or Natural Disaster,” Journal of Social Business, Glasgow University, Vol. 3, No. 1, April 2013, pp. 70-88.

“Mobilizing the Social Sector in Service to Society: Obama, Drucker and You,” Proceedings of the Korean Drucker Society Program & Papers, October 15, 2010, 39 pp.

“Reciprocal Dynamics: Social Capital and Microcredit,” Economic Self-Reliance Review, Fall 2008, pp. 36-45.

“Social Entrepreneurship Applications from the Legacy of Peter Drucker,” Proceedings of Drucker Centennial Conference, Seoul, June 16, 2010, pp. 52-85.

“Laboring in the Trenches with the Poor of Haiti: Practicing the Church’s New Fourth-Fold Mission,” Meridian Magazine, December 28, 2010, pp. 1-10.

“Peter Drucker’s Creative Concepts for Innovation, Civic Engagement, and Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector,” Journal of Creativity and Innovation, July 2010, pp. 33-52.

“Youth-Based Social Entrepreneurship: Post-Tsunami Crisis Intervention,” Social Entrepreneurship E-Journal, May 2008, 14 pp.

“Audacious Social Entrepreneurship: How Big, Bad, Unitus Came to Be & Lessons Learned for Changing the World,” New York University, Social Entrepreneurship Conference, 2015.

Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Resources Handbook. I wrote several titles in different sections of the book published by the University Network for Social Entrepreneurship, Spring 2008.

“Building an Academic Network for Expanding Social Entrepreneurship”. Discussion at Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, Said Business School, Oxford University, Oxford, England, March 2004.

“Filipino Strategies for Economic Self-Reliance: Microenterprise and Micro Credit,” Third World Think Tank, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1997.

“United for Zion,” The story of Unitus, a global microfinance accelerator. Book by Woodworth, Grenny, & Manwaring, 2000.

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly know how far one can go.”
—T. S. Eliot

The Difference Between Social Entrepreneurs and Traditional Interns

Below is a typology to consider that I developed for a speech to H.E.L.P.’s volunteers in 2003. These innovators are wonderful examples of the difference between the student who merely fulfills a summer internship, and a social entrepreneur who is out to make waves. While the former play it safe, the latter are global change agents. Here’s my list of factors that distinguish the two:

Traditional Interns
  • Do what they’re told
  • Low energy/sit at a desk for a summer
  • “If it ain’t broke, leave it as is”
  • Focus on bureaucratic stuff: hours, pay, and other benefits, etc.
  • Work in an office/enjoy air conditioning
  • Fit in the system
  • Are assigned tasks by management
  • Endure lots of meetings/planning Run copy machines
  • Cautious/Focus on lists in their Franklin-Covey planners
  • Hearers of the word
  • Emphasis is on a salary and college credit
  • Dull, boring work from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and then be done
  • Shun responsibility Conform to organizational demands
  • Routine, traditional, conservative personalities
Social Entrepreneurs
  • Do what’s needed
  • High energy/work in the field
  • “If it ain’t broke, break it”
  • Focus on society’s major challenges: poverty, illiteracy, poor nutrition, etc.
  • Work in poor communities/enjoy sweating
  • Alter the system Design new tasks with partners
  • Enjoy laboring in the real world Run people-centered projects
  • Risk-takers/Focus on societal issues such as joblessness and hunger
  • Doers of the word Want to transform human society
  • Exciting/unpredictable work that often goes late into the night
  • Thrive on responsibility
  • Free spirits who initiate new programs
  • Wild radicals out to change or overthrow the world

“True joy in life [is] being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.”
—George Bernard Shaw

Social Entrepreneurship Links

Global Exchange

United Nations Volunteers


International Association for Volunteer Effort


Skoll Foundation

Third Sector

Echoing Green

International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR)

Institute for Social Entrepreneurs

The Aspen Institute

“You have not done enough, you have never done enough, so long as it is still possible that you have something to contribute.”
—Dag Hammarskjold, Swedish Economist and U.N. Secretary General in the 1950s

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