Chensun Mills on Solving Social Problems Through Entrepreneurship

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Chensun Mills discusses the new breed of entrepreneurs with a focus on social solutions

Success is measured not only by profits, but the social value the solution provides," explains Chensun Mills

Chensun Mills comments on the new breed of entrepreneurs who solve the world’s problems through social ventures. “Success is measured not only by profits, but the social value the solution provides,” explains Chensun Mills. The aim of social ventures tends to be long-term sustainable social change as opposed to addressing more immediate and shorter-term problems.

Highly innovative examples are demonstrated by NYU Stern’s Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship during their recent annual 2011 Social Ventures Competition held at the end of April. The winning team, See and Be Seen LLC addresses a leading cause of death in Africa in road traffic injuries by providing a simple solution of backpacks with reflector tape. By producing and distributing reflector-enhanced book bags made for African children ages 5-14 in Tanzania and Ghana, See and Be Seen has helped school age children, who without the benefits of street signs, street lights, or sidewalks, have become more visible to drivers while they walk along dimly-lit roadsides.

See and Be Seen is a great example of solving a social problem that takes into cultural, economic, and geographic considerations in mind. Often at times, social entrepreneurs do not fully take into consideration these variables in the equation as they come up with potential social solutions. Therefore, many social solutions fail because assumptions are often made based on the success of solutions in developed countries. By not fully researching or understanding the differences caused by cultural, economic or geographic factors, the “social problem” tend not to be fully addressed or addressed at all.

David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, explains that the job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

The outlook for mission-oriented ventures is encouraging as more and more work of social entrepreneurs is being showcased and valued. Chensun Mills notes the increase focus of business schools on applying conventional business models to deliver social and environmental returns. “In addition, the entrepreneurial spirit now seems to gather momentum even before business school age.” Chensun Mills comments. “I recently learned that there are high-caliber entrepreneurial competitions even at the high school level, and we certainly hope that this promising trend of developing young leaders to take ownership in solving the world’s problems will continue to gain momentum.”

About Chensun Mills: Chensun Mills is an accomplished professional in business and education. She earned her MA in Gifted Education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and currently serves as the Chief Business Development Officer for The Global Leaders, an organization focused on helping communities to help each other.

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