Why would anyone choose to be a 4th Sector Entrepreneur?

This is a follow up to our previous 2 blogs. 

In order to survive, an organisation has to solve a specific set of problems for a specific set of customers who in turn have to believe it’s worth paying for the benefits this offers.

When we set up Bubble Chamber as a 4th Sector enterprise, we had a hypothesis that we could help leaders of other 4th Sector enterprises gain the clarity and courage they needed to grow their social impact.

So, who are these people we thought we could help?  What motivated them to become 4th Sector entrepreneurs in the first place? Why didn’t they choose a sensible way of life? 

Over the years we have developed a sense of who they might be.  An instinct that the people who would be interested in what we had to offer had a view of the world that made them distinct from other leaders in the economy.   

In the business sector, entrepreneurs operate in a world where money reigns supreme. In the public sector, leadership take a long view in their aim (we hope) to make the world a better place.  While not-for-profit leaders exist within a world of strict rules and conditions that limit risk.

The people we came across, however, exhibited a relationship with money that clashed with traditional commercial entrepreneurship; a restlessness that made them ill-suited to the public sector; and a willingness to embrace risk to achieve their aims that clashed with the not-for-profit sector.

Our sense was that they were, indeed, unique.

That is why as part of a book we have recently interviewed a selection of people we admired in the sector and asked them a very simple question – Why did you choose to become a social entrepreneur?

It is the answers we received to this question that have given us a clear context for our whole project. And while our research is by no means definitive, we are confident that it shows a pattern that would stand up to robust scrutiny.

Our conversations highlighted four characteristics shared by everyone in our sample group:

  1. A commitment to social justice
  2. A strong self-belief that it was possible to do things better
  3. A strong desire to control their own destiny
  4. A drive to make profit not for personal gain but for reinvestment in their social mission. 

How do you relate to this? What do you think?