Social Entrepreneurs as Agents for Environmental Sustainability

An Analysis of the Contribution of Selected Social Entrepreneurs to the Achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Master's Thesis, 2007

94 Pages, Grade: 5,75 (von 6)


Table of content

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1. Outline and Scope of the Thesis
1.1. Introduction to the Topic
1.2. Relevance of the Research and Objectives
1.3. A Roadmap for the Thesis

Part I: Conceptual Framework

2. United Nations Millennium Development Goals
2.1. History and Development
2.2. Actors and Processes
2.3. Status quo and Perspectives

3. Social Entrepreneurship
3.1. History
3.2. Social Entrepreneur - the Actor
3.2.1. Interpreting the Term ‘Social Entrepreneur’
3.2.2. Defining ‘Social Entrepreneur’
3.2.3. Characteristics and Skills
3.2.4. Differentiation from Business Entrepreneurs and Other Actors
3.3. Social Entrepreneurship - the Process
3.4. Social Enterprise - the Outcome
3.5. Challenges for Social Entrepreneurs

4. Environmental Sustainability
4.1. Defining ‘Sustainability’
4.2. Development of the Sustainability Paradigm
4.3. Status quo of Sustainable Development
4.4. The Path to Environmental Sustainability
4.5. MDG 7 - Ensure Environmental Sustainability
4.5.1. Water and Sanitation
4.5.2. Status quo
4.5.3. Recommendations

Interim Conclusion Part

Part II: Empirical Case Studies

5. Methodology
5.1. Research Design
5.2. Case Selection
5.3. Data Collection
5.4. Data Analysis

6. Case Studies
6.1. Gram Vikas
6.2. World Toilet Organization
6.3. DMT Mobile Toilets
6.4. Unilever

Part III: Analysis

7. Comparative Analysis
7.1. Mission and Motivation
7.2. Enterprise Model
7.3. Overall Impact
7.4. Replicability
7.5. Contribution to the Achievement of the UN MDGs

8. Conclusion
8.1. Main Findings
8.2. Limitations and Recommendations
8.3. Lessons Learned


List of Interviews and Other Personal Communication

Millennium Development Targets and Indicators


The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs) are the only global political framework for international development collaboration. They include eight concrete goals, addressing various dimensions of development issues, to be achieved by 2015. The goals form the most important concept in achieving global sustainable development. MDG seven is directed at environmental sustainability, which is considered to be fundamental to achieve the other goals. The goals are very ambitious and the realisation of the single MDG targets is lacking. They can only be realised in a combined attack on all dimensions of development, in collaboration of stakeholders from all sectors and levels

Social entrepreneurs are actors that address social problems at their roots and invent creative, entrepreneurial and sustainable methods to catalyse social change. They provide the tools that are required to tackle the world’s ills.

This thesis develops a conceptual theoretical framework on the still fragmented field of social entrepreneurship, on the UN MDGs and environmental sustainability. Based on this framework, a comparative qualitative case study is carried out. It analyses three successful social enterprises and evaluates their contribution to the achievement of the MDGs with regard to the goal of environmental sustainability. The social enterprises are contrasted with a business case to accentuate their differences respectively similarities and compares their impact on the millennium goals. The study confirms the value of the impact of social entrepreneurs for sustainable development and their potential to contributing on a large scale to the realisation of the UN MDGs.


I wish to express my thanks to all interviewed persons, the social entrepreneurs and their employees who took the time to provide detailed information on their organisations. They gave me insight into their valuable work and therefore contributed considerably to this thesis.

A special thank you is dedicated to my friends who took their time to provide valuable advice and support during the realisation of this thesis.

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures

Figure 1 Regional representation of social entrepreneurs of the Schwab Foundation in 2005

Figure 2 Sectors represented by social entrepreneurs of the Schwab Foundation in 2005

List of Tables

Table 1 Analysis criteria and indicators

Table 2 Comparison of vision & mission

Table 3 Comparison of enterprise model

Table 4 Comparison of impacts

Table 5 Comparison of the contribution to the UN MDGs

1. Outline and Scope of the Thesis

1.1. Introduction to the Topic

The global society is confronted with a number of severe problems: deep poverty, striking inequality among countries, almost epidemic spread of diseases like AIDS and Malaria (Annan, 2000, p. 5), environmental degradation, resource scarcities and climate change (Wilkinson & Hill, 2001, p. 1493), just to name a few. These problems are interlinked, aggravating each other mutually and resulting in even more problems like migration, political unrest and conflict. The causes of these problems are as broad as the problems themselves ranging from unsustainable population growth and hence exploitation of resources over problems of governance to unsustainable patterns of consumption. (Perrings & Ansuategi, 2000, p. 23)

In the last years, nature showed clearly its response to these patterns of humans’ life on Earth. Already too late, the most important international players finally recognised the scientific evidence that explains that humanity is causing these problems. Furthermore, steps to solve them urgently have to be taken on a broad scale to retrieve a way to a sustainable future.

All United Nations (UN) member countries agreed on the need and partly on instruments for action to sustainable development during a multitude of conferences and through a variety of agreements. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs), formally established in 2000 and agreed on by all member states (UN GA, 2000, September 18, p.1), include the most important results from many conferences and even more preparatory work. They form the only global political framework for international development collaboration that comprehensively includes concrete, measurable goals for the most important dimensions of today’s global problems to be achieved by the year 2015 (Cleeve & Ndhlovu, 2004, p. 9). Environmental sustainability is one of these main issues. Even though it is only one goal out of eight, achieving it might represent the most important progress that is tightly interlinked with the other goals (Biaou, 2005, p. 135). Environmental sustainability means for example the provision of safe access to drinking water. This in turn reduces water-borne diseases, implies the reduction of emissions that cause climate change that in return leads to natural disasters or drought worsening the poverty in the affected regions. At the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (the Earth Summit) environmental protection was emphasised as an integral part of the development process that can not be considered in isolation from it. (UN GA, 1992, p. 2)

Sustainability in this context is not only relevant with regard to the environment but for overall development. It refers to a way of life, to development and processes that take into account the consequences for future generations and meet the present needs with a wise use of resources and the required protection of the ecosystems we depend upon (UN, 2005, p. 30).

Different kinds of actors have discussed and debated uncountable times ways to solve these problems. A variety of professional task forces have made concrete suggestions about instruments. Still, we are not making enough progress (GEO 2000, 1999, p. 364). Necessary steps are often failing at the government level. Despite all the promises made, governments often do not stick to them or are just not in the position to fulfil them. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, pp. 15-17) Basic needs of millions of people in non-industrialised countries remain unfulfilled. Public spending to provide services is for example failing poor people in terms of access, quality and affordability in many countries (Seelos and Mair, 2005, p. 241). Progress is therefore very slow and uneven. The methods used are partially not very promising or not sustainable since they do not address the underlying causes of the problems. National strategies to achieve the Goals will therefore not succeed without the active engagement of civil society organisations and other civil actors. (UN GA, 2005, October 24, p. 4)

Appropriate and promising solutions do exist. Social entrepreneurs are very successful in finding innovative ways to address the right problems. Other than most development initiatives, social entrepreneurs try to address the most urgent needs by tackling the root causes of these needs and by including the people concerned in the solution process. With this approach they try to eliminate the patterns of society that cause the problems and attempt to empower the ones in need, giving them the capacities to contribute to their own development. (Schwab Foundation for Social entrepreneurship, 2005, p. 2)

Civil society organisations, in the role of social entrepreneurs have the potential to raise public and political awareness about the Millennium Development Goals. They can maintain constructive pressure on governments and political leaders to follow through on their commitments and mobilising support among people and key constituencies. They can help design national MDG-based poverty reduction strategies. Through their work on the ground they can be instrumental in the propagation of best practices and technical expertise. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 18)

In spite of this, the awareness and knowledge of the potential of social entrepreneurs’ work remains limited. Seelos and Mair (2005, pp. 243/44) claim that the lack of a theory of social entrepreneurship is a barrier to the recognition and support needed for their engagement. Social entrepreneurship must reach a critical mass of initiatives around the globe to make a significant contribution to sustainable development. It ‘paves the way to a future that may allow coming generations to satisfy their needs better than we are able to satisfy even the basic needs of today’s population’. (Seelos & Mair, 2005, p. 246).

Putting together the three main subjects - the UN MDGs, environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship - we conclude the following problem: The UN MDGs are of utmost importance for global sustainable development. Achieving environmental sustainability is a necessary component and basically the foundation for a sustainable future. But current initiatives, especially on the part of governments, are not sufficient to achieve the goals on time on a broad scale even though there are actors - social entrepreneurs - that combine the necessary ambitions, skills and methods resulting in appropriate problem solutions that could be the remedy for the world’s ills.

This fact explains the motivation for this thesis to analyse ‘the contribution of social entrepreneurs to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals’ with a particular focus on their commitment ‘as agents for environmental sustainability’.

The key question to be analysed is: How are social entrepreneurs contributing to the achievement of the MDGs and which specific factors determine their impacts and success?

1.2. Relevance of the Research and Objectives

The UN MDGs have not been extensively studied in a scientific way. There is a broad body of publications, different reports, protocols and outcome documents from different UN agencies. The annual Millennium Development Report provides a comprehensive but not detailed overview of the progress made towards the achievement of the goals based on quantitative indicators, compared to the base year 1990 and aggregated for the UN geographical regions. Individual data for every country are compiled at the UN Statistics Divisions. No comprehensive and aggregate data exist on the instruments and approaches used to address the goals in every country. Neither is there an overview nor comparison of the individual contributions of the different kinds of actors. Only few authors have made detailed studies on the performance of specific regions, such as Ahmed and Cleeve (2004) with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa or Larson, Mintren and Razafindralambo (2006) with the example of Madagascar. A qualitative comprehensive analysis relevant for the assessment of the different approaches to the realisation of the goals and the evaluation of their quality does not exist. An analysis of the contribution of a specific group of actors would complement the existing material.

In the last decade, increasingly more attention has been directed in academic research to the topic of social entrepreneurship. Especially organisations like Ashoka and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship that seek out and actively support social entrepreneurs have provided substantial preparatory work on the subject. They have delivered a considerable amount of essential material and attracted the attention for it. Nevertheless, the value of social entrepreneurs and their engagement is not yet sufficiently recognised.

In the literature, there are especially two authors - Gregory Dees and Charles Leadbeater - that laid the cornerstone for the study of social entrepreneurship, who are therefore constantly cited in almost all works on the topic. The main value of Dees’ work lies in its commonly accepted definition and evaluation of the meaning of social entrepreneurs. Leadbeater became relevant for the field by describing the role of the social entrepreneur in the development of the welfare state.

Not many articles are dedicated to the comparison of social entrepreneurs and their working methods. Instead, much research evolves around characterising social entrepreneurs and distinguishing them from other kinds of actors, especially business entrepreneurs, like Austin, Stevenson and Wei-Skillern (2006) in ‘Social and commercial entrepreneurship: the same, different or both?’, Boschee and Clurg (2003) in ‘Toward a better understanding of Social entrepreneurship: some important distinctions’ or Spear in ‘Social entrepreneurship: a different model? ’. Others concentrate on analysing cases of individual or a small number of social entrepreneurs. Examples are Bornstein (2004) with ‘How to change the world - Social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas ’, Alvord, Brown and Letts (2004) with ‘Social entrepreneurship and societal transformation’ or Thompson and Doherty with ‘The diverse world of social enterprise: A collection of social enterprise stories’. This is nowadays complemented by a deeper analysis of social entrepreneurship as an academic field of study on its own. Particularly Mair (2006) contributed in collaboration with other authors a lot to this specific field.

The result is a fragmented field of research with a variety of different focuses on the subject and hence different definitions of the term. Many authors, like Dees and Bornstein, complain about the difficulties to measure the impacts and value creation of social entrepreneurs. Dees (1998, p. 4) describes neatly the problem of estimating or defining the value of the creation of social benefits by social entrepreneurs. Consequently, he alludes to the dilemma that social entrepreneurs face not only regarding the recognition of their work but also to the difficulty of producing valuable scientific and empirical material about the value they create. This explains to a large extent the lack of empirical studies on the contribution of social entrepreneurs towards social change. The lack of adequate material does not allow for the potential of social entrepreneurs to contribute decisively to the improvement of social grievances. The possibility to examine the patterns of successful social enterprises and to apply them to other fields and therefore to multiply their success has not been fully utilised yet.

In the context of the increasingly perceived social responsibility - not only of political but also economic and social actors - social entrepreneurs do pioneer work with their innovative approaches to tackle social problems and to improve social nuisances. To use them as positive examples in coping with global problems could rebound considerably.

To analyse how and what kind of contribution social entrepreneurs make and which factors favour it, is therefore of political and social importance. It can form the basis for new problem solving approaches. The objective of this work is therefore to describe and compare cases of social entrepreneurs. It is also to provide groundwork to elaborate patterns of their approaches that can be generalised and multiplied to valuably add to the achievement of the UN MDGs. An additional comparison will be made to the business case of Unilever with the purpose to highlight the special features of social enterprises. The basis for this analysis is provided by the conceptual framework about UN MDGs, social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability.

To sum up, the relevance of this study lies in:

- The compilation of a theoretical basis of three different academic fields - the UN MDGs, environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship;
- The collection, aggregation and comparison of data on selected cases of social entrepreneurs that are active in the environmental field;
- And in the attempt to identify patterns of the success and contributions to the realisation of the MDGs that could be transferred to the initiatives of other actors.

1.3. A Roadmap for the Thesis

The first part of this work provides a conceptual framework of the three theoretical fields addressed - the UN MDGs, social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability.

With regard to the chapter on the UN MDGs, the history of their development, the most important actors involved and processes adopted are addressed, followed by a comprehensive analysis of the status quo of their achievement and perspectives on how they should be advanced. A compilation of different academic perspectives, definitions and the development of the concept of social entrepreneurship and respectively social entrepreneurs and social enterprises are provided in chapter three. A detailed characterisation of social entrepreneurs and distinctions from business entrepreneurs and other socially engaged actors is drawn. The chapter concludes with the challenges that social entrepreneurs are facing. Also the chapter on environmental sustainability is based on a presentation of the development of the paradigm. This is complemented with an assessment of the status quo and approaches towards a sustainable future.

The second part of the paper contains information on the case study methodology used and the description of the cases selected. These are three social entrepreneurs that have been widely recognised as successful and that address social needs integrated in the seventh MDG of environmental sustainability. Unilever constitutes the fourth case study as a business example that is also engaged in this field.

A comprehensive and comparative analysis of the cases is then provided in part three.

Part I: Conceptual Framework

2. United Nations Millennium Development Goals

This chapter provides an overview of the development and the relevance of the Millennium Development Goals, the actors and processes involved in their realisation and the progress made so far. MDG 7, which will be focused on in this paper, will be further analysed in the chapter on environmental sustainability.

2.1. History and Development

In the 1980s, the president of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), Gro Harlem Brundtland, was tasked by the UN General Assembly to prepare a report on the status of and expectations about the environment and global problems to the year 2000 and beyond, including proposed strategies for sustainable development. In her report, published in 1987, she emphasised the priority to satisfy the essential needs of the poor and to provide them with the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life. The Brundtland Report stated that this goal should be achieved ‘without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' and therefore put forward the global objective of achieving sustainable development. (Seelos, Ganly & Mair, 2006, p. 235)

The millennium was a reason for the world to celebrate many achievements, for example with regard to life expectancy, better health conditions and economic growth. But there were still many things to deplore and to worry about. Severe poverty and increasing inequality were prevailing in many countries, exacerbated by war and political conflict. (Annan, 2000, p. 5) The Report of the World Social Situation 2005 stated that 80 per cent of the world’s GDP belonged to the one billion people living in the developed world. The remaining 20 per cent were shared by the five billion people living in developing countries. (UN GA, 2005, July 13, p. 12) The environment had been seriously degraded and disrupted by human races’ daily activities increasingly endangering many lives and living spaces (Annan, 2000, p. 3). Therefore, at the Millennium Summit in 2000, the UN Member States recognised their ‘collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level (UN GA, 2000, September 18, p.1). Building on the Brundtland Report, they adopted a declaration that set a number of concrete and time-bound goals with the aim to address the world’s most severe problems and to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty (UN DESA, 2005, p.1). These goals were developed from 30 years of global experience and the results of several major UN conferences that had generated a global consensus on a shared vision of development (UN DESA, 2005, p. 7).

The declaration is an unprecedented global commitment and one of the most significant UN documents of recent time. It offers a comprehensive vision on how to tackle some of the major challenges facing the world. (Nelson & Prescott, 2003, p. 2) Eight goals, to be achieved by 2015, were derived from this declaration and adopted by 189 nations. These goals were then referred to as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They were established by a consortium of experts from the UN in consultations with the IMF, the World Bank, and other specialized agencies of the UN system (Ahmed & Cleeve, 2004, p. 16).

At the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico, and again at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg the same year, the 189 signatories reaffirmed their commitment to the MDGs (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 4).

As a political framework for development and international collaboration in the combat of poverty, the MDGs are a tool to hold these member states accountable to the UN for the achievement of the goals. They are an instrument for all concerned groups of actors to focus their efforts and to assess the progress made in relation to clear objectives, deadlines and benchmarks. (Cleeve & Ndhlovu, 2004, p. 9) The measurability of the progress plays a crucial role. Therefore, the eight MDGs are further concretised by 18 targets and 48 indicators to address the different dimensions of poverty. (Cleeve & Ndhlovu, 2004, p. 10) The goals are:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality & empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development1

According to Jeffrey Sachs, the MDGs are fundamentally important because they are ends in themselves and they are inputs to economic growth and further development. He believes the key to achieving these goals is to ensure that each person has the means to a productive life2. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, pp. 12/13) More than 500 million people will be lifted out of poverty and millions of lives will be saved if the goals are achieved. But they are only a mid-station to ending absolute poverty. If the MDGs will be achieved by 2015, extreme poverty can be substantially eliminated by 2025. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 60)

The goals should not be regarded as independent. International objectives such as peace, security, sustainable development, human rights and poverty alleviation, are strongly interlinked. This means that improvements in one MDG may automatically lead to progress in another goal and have implications for all sectors of society. (Nelson & Prescott, 2003 p. 4)

Earlier development programmes focused on market reforms and economic stabilisation as prerequisites for growth. The resulting policy prescriptions were either deficient or inappropriately applied, and often led to deepening poverty because the most vulnerable groups of society were denied access to basic services. The MDGs are instead characterised by a re-orientation of development policies towards global partnerships, pro-poor and inclusive growth and enhanced social spending. (Cleeve & Ndhlovu, 2004, p. 9)

The benefits of the MDGs will be shared across the world, so will be the costs. The UN Millennium Project calculated that the costs of the goals are entirely affordable and within the scope of 0.7 per cent of GNP in Official Development Assistance3 (ODA) promised at Monterrey and Johannesburg in 2002. The estimated required US$135 billion up to US$195 billion in 2015 are according to Sachs a relatively small amount compared to the wealth of high-income countries and the world’s annual military budget of US$900 billion. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 64)

The 2005 World Summit took place to review the Millennium Declaration. Again, the 189 states reaffirmed the MDGs (UN GA, 2005, October 24, p. 1). Key points of the reaffirmation concerned, among other things, the importance of an effective multilateral system to better address the multifaceted and interconnected challenges and threats confronting the world (UN GA, 2005, October 24, p. 2). They reemphasised the central goal of sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental aspects as a key element of the overarching framework of UN activities (UN GA, 2005, July 13, p. 16). Encouraged by reductions in poverty in some countries, but concerned about the slow and uneven progress in others, the member states reiterated their determination ‘to ensure the timely and full realization of the development goals and objectives' (UN GA, 2005, October 24, p. 3).

2.2. Actors and Processes

In addition to the signatory member states, all kinds of actors from the public, the private as well as the citizen sector - governments, NGOs, international organisations, developed and developing countries, a network of regional and functional commissions, etc. - agreed on and committed to a global partnership for the realisation of the goals. Nevertheless, since all UN declarations have not been legally binding, the initiatives and activities to contribute to the goals remain voluntary. Each member state is by itself responsible for its contribution to the goals. For this reason there are no instructions for the realisation of the targets, only recommendations. (N. Ruder, Interview, December 20, 2006)4

Each country must take primary responsibility for its own development, which makes national policies and development strategies indispensable in the achievement of sustainable development. They should be complemented by supportive international programmes that enhance the contribution of non-state actors in national development efforts. (UN GA, 2005, October 24, p. 4)

On the national basis in particular, there is a need for good governance, rule of law, compliance with human rights, ongoing efforts to tackle conflict and corruption, and implementation of international norms and standards to successfully enhance the achievement of the goals. Improved local governance plays a critical role in ensuring local development processes that lead to economic changes that are pro-poor. (Satterthwaite, 2003a, p. viii) Nelson and Prescott (2003, p. 2) claim that more generous and effective development assistance and debt relief from donor governments are additionally needed. The

advanced economies must meet their commitment to provide higher levels of aid. They must improve access to their markets for developing country exports and they must reduce trade-distorting subsidies. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 39)

Within the framework of government leadership, the private sector can play a constructive role, too. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan therefore launched the concept of the Global Compact, designed for companies, tightly connected to the UN MDGs, to promote responsible corporate citizenship. UN bodies, companies, business associations, NGOs, and trade unions participate in this network. The Global Compact comprises ten principles, which are based on international intergovernmental agreements that companies are expected to adhere to within their own corporate sphere of influence. (Global Compact, 2006) This commitment in itself is a crucial component of how business can support the MDGs (Nelson & Prescott, 2003, p. 2). Whilst governments must carry primary responsibility for achieving them; it is increasingly in the interests of business to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem (Nelson & Prescott, 2003, p. 4). Most companies have some impact on development and can make a contribution within their core business activities, their social investment, philanthropic activities and engagement in public policy dialogue and advocacy activities (Nelson & Prescott, 2003, p. 5).

2.3. Status quo and Perspectives

On the basis of the global situation in the 1990s, most of the goals and targets were set to be achieved by the year 2015. Annual MDG-Reports have been published since 2000 to document the efforts and progress made towards the realisation of the goals. The reports contain aggregate data of all UN member states and their achievements according to the 48 indicators and 18 targets. The base line for the measurement is the data from the year 1990. (UN, 2006a, p. 26)

Target-driven approaches with time-bound goals need accurate data to monitor progress. Since progress has been measured on a regular basis, the international statistics institutions complain about a lack of appropriate data for a large part of the third world. In addition, some of the indicators chosen for monitoring the MDGs or their targets have serious deficiencies and can not adequately picture the whole scope of the problems concerned. (UN Statistics Division, DESA & UN, 2003) This target- driven approach causes some concern that no attention will be paid to the processes through which the targets are addressed (Satterthwaite, 2003a, p. ix). Even though steps have been taken to eliminate these deficiencies, the flow of relevant data to measure the progress of the development initiatives still has to be improved (UN Statistics Division et al., 2003).

Many immediate projects were launched among aid agencies, governments and multilateral institutions to address the goals. Nevertheless, the UNDP Human Development Report 2003 stated that some countries were already falling short. Over 50 countries had become poorer in the last decade accompanied by deteriorating environment, falling access to basic health care and other aggravations. (UNDP, 2003, p. v) Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has experienced declined per capita income, food production, and industrialised production over an extended period. It has been the only developing region where development appears to be moving in reverse and where conventional development efforts by donors and governments have failed to halt it. (Ahmed & Cleeve, 2004, p. 15)

The World Development Report 2004 stated again that many services contributing to health and education were failing poor people. But it stressed that economic growth was essential to reaching the MDGs. It estimated that ’projected growth in per capita GDP will by itself enable five of the world’s six developing regions to reach the goals for reducing income poverty’. (World Bank, 2003)

In addition to the MDG-reports, an outcome document was published in 2005 with a more detailed evaluation of the status quo. As a response to the rather modest results of the ongoing efforts, Kofi Annan launched the UN Millennium Project, an independent advisory body. Within the project, Jeffrey Sachs elaborated with a task force a plan and catalogue of recommendations how to keep track with the targets and to reach the goals on time. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. vii)

The status quo has varied enormously according to region and the goals themselves. Many countries are on track to achieve at least some of the goals on time. Asia is, for example, the region with the fastest progress. Nevertheless, many regions are far off track. Most of the African countries are to date not in the position to reach the targets. The worst situation has been recorded in Sub-Saharan countries marked by the spread of AIDS, falling food output per person and environmental degradation. The achievement of some goals, like food security and the combat of diseases, is jeopardised because of climate change and additional factors like war and political conflict. Still, the evaluation think tank emphasised that the instruments and technologies for achieving the goals are known and only needed to be applied at scale. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 2)

The major reasons for the shortfalls in achieving the goals are according to Jeffrey Sachs (UN Millennium Project, 2005, pp. 15-23):

- Governance failures resulting in inefficient management systems, lack of financial resources and public spending in areas like health, infrastructure, and environment;
- Poverty traps, meaning that even well governed countries are too poor to invest in basic infrastructure and services;
- Some regions and minority groups being left out from the development;
- And important policy areas being constantly neglected like environmental issues or education.

Other factors that hinder the attainment of the targets according to the Economic and Social Council of the UN are debt burdens of many countries, imbalances across regions, an unfair system of global trade and finance, the proliferation of conflicts and national and global governance (UN DESA, 2005, p. 4).

Nevertheless, the situation is not completely negative. According to Ferreira and Leite (2002, cited in Cleeve & Ndhlovu, 2004, p. 10) the goals and their associated targets and indicators have already succeeded in at least raising awareness of the issues which they seek to address and focusing the mind of policy-makers on the need to secure measurable progress along the dimensions of the MDGs in a relatively short period of time. Furthermore, significant progress has been made since 1990. Major improvements are, for example, the overall income increase by 21 per cent until 2002 or the decline of the number of people in extreme poverty of approximately 130 million. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 8) However, this progress has not been made uniformly across the world but with huge disparities. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 9)

Depending on their area of focus, the different groups of actors give varying recommendations regarding the problems and failures in realising the MDGs: The Economic and Social Council (UN DESA, 2005, p. 1) stresses that efforts have to be linked to the implementation of the more comprehensive UN development agenda. Processes on country-level, especially focussing on investment in people, environment and infrastructure, should therefore be supported at the international system. Shaw (2005, p. 521) postulates in addition the coordination and monitoring of a central force at all levels.

Ahmed and Cleeve (2004, p. 26) estimated that countries seriously off-track needed to at least double their current rate of progress to achieve the development goals. This required very different strategies and interventions in each country taking into account national conditions, needs, and priorities. In addition, these strategies should support bottom-up processes of low-income groups. (Satterthwaite, 2003a, p. xi) These challenges must be overcome by the countries themselves. Several countries in Africa have achieved significant progress towards particular targets, demonstrating its feasibility in even the most resource constrained environments. Therefore, these positive experiences should be used as best practices and adequately adjusted and applied by others. (Ahmed & Cleeve, 2004, p. 26)

The UN Millennium Project also concluded that many low-income and most of the least developed countries, will not reach the goals only with domestic resources. Instead, domestic resource redirection (Shaw, 2005, p. 520) and mobilisation by increasing government expenditures will have to be accompanied by increased ODA.5 This means that donors will have to increase their financial assistance by 2015 to the 0.7 per cent of GNP agreed on in Monterrey. That means that the member states would ‘only’ have to commit to their promises made in 1970 in the General Assembly Resolution6 and 2002 in Monterrey. No new promises are necessary. Unfortunately, so far only five high-income countries7 have reached the 0.7 per cent target. Much more action and commitment of the other member states is needed. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 59)

The Millennium Development Goals appear to be more than ambitious. They are a very complex construct with regard to topics addressed, actors involved and processes and actions required to achieve them. Taking into consideration the status quo, one could even doubt that the goals will ever be met. Still, the evaluation of Jeffrey Sachs and his task force stated that the costs are affordable and the goals therefore achievable. (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 1) Progress in one of the dimensions of poverty can have significant effects on progress in the other dimensions of poverty. A combined attack on all the dimensions will consequently make the biggest and most sustainable advance in the combat of poverty. (Shaw, 2005, p. 520) But the achievement of the MDG targets depends most and for all on the political will and commitment from all sides. To really boost the progress needed to achieve the goals on time, innovative solutions are required that can be applied on a global scale, solutions that are usually not discovered by governments or development organisations, but by other actors with creative and entrepreneurial approaches - like Social entrepreneurs.

3. Social Entrepreneurship

In the last years, the media has increasingly raised attention to outstanding people who received awards for their social enterprises from a growing range of recognised organisations, like the Schwab Foundation for Social entrepreneurship or Ashoka. The attention to the topic spread to a broader public when Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. This shed light on the growing number of successful social entrepreneurial initiatives that contribute to solving the world’s most pressing problems. To analyse social entrepreneurs as actors contributing to the realisation of the UN MDGs is therefore ever more relevant.

The meaning of social entrepreneurship is ambiguous and a variety of definitions coexist (Boschee & McClurg, 2003, p. 1; Weerawardena & Sullivan Mort, 2006, p. 2). Fragmented literature and a lack of a coherent theoretical framework (Sullivan Mort, Weerawardena & Karnegie, 2002, p. 77) reflect the blurring of sector boundaries that the term Social entrepreneurship implies, as it combines social purposes with business methods (Dees, 1998, p. 1). In academic studies social entrepreneurship has therefore, though only recently, attracted the interest of researchers from various angles of science (Mair & Marti, 2006, p. 36). Development studies focus on the economic, social and political challenges of social change, on the nature of development problems and on the kinds of innovations required to solve them. Representatives of organisation theory focus on the characteristics of agencies that catalyse social change. The features of collective action to tackle social problems are studied by social movement research (Alvord, Brown & Letts, 2004, p. 263). Opposed to that, an institutional perspective tries to analyse the role of social entrepreneurship in changing or creating norms, institutions and structures considering their ability to change norms as the most significant characteristic (Marti & Mair, 2006, p. 40).

Thus, the different scholars have produced a vast amount of concepts and definitions. Definitions of social entrepreneurship relate to the process or behaviour, definitions of social entrepreneurs to the founder of the initiative and definitions of social enterprises focus on the outcome of social entrepreneurship. To fully grasp the complexity of this phenomenon it is important to take into account all these dimensions. This chapter provides an overview of these different aspects.

3.1. History

The central question of who should and who can take responsibility for the needs of civil society has always existed (Roper & Cheney, 2005, p. 95). Until the Second World War it was mainly religious organisations and wealthy patrons that took on this task (Bornstein, 2004, p. 267). In the period after World War II, western democratic countries established models of social democracies combined with welfare systems where the state assumed the provision of social services (Roper & Cheney, 2005, p. 96). The government’s responsibility to fulfil social needs increased with the rise of the welfare state. But contrary to the business sector, governments were not exposed to pressures and incentives to improve their services, which often resulted in failing responses to the needs of the citizens.

(Bornstein, 2004, p. 267) According to Bornstein (2004, p. 3) this led to an increasing creation of citizen organisations and initiatives8 trying to address these needs.

Serious economic challenges in the 1970s led to adaptations of the systems in the 1980s toward free- market neo-liberalism. This model was characterised by a minimal involvement of the state in the economic sector. Through limiting the role of the state, the spread of neo-liberalism created a wider political and economic space in which business could operate. (Gold, 2003, p. 168) As entrepreneurship gained importance in business and society, also the concept of Social entrepreneurship was established. In 1978, Bill Drayton was the first one to establish an organisation - Ashoka - to develop, legitimise and support the field of social entrepreneurship. He wanted to search the world for individuals with fresh ideas for social change who combined entrepreneurial ability and strong ethical fibre. (Hartigan, 2004, p. 1)

By the late 1990s, the gap between rich and poor grew continuously, showing that the neo-liberal model was not ensuring the welfare of all people (Roper & Cheney, 2005, p. 96). According to Hartigan (2004, p. 1) and Leadbeater (in Roper & Cheney, 2005, p. 99) this caused the emergence of more social entrepreneurs seeking to react to the growing inequity between poor and rich.

Later, a ‘third-way’ approach developed that reinstated the responsibility of the government for social services but also a free market for business (Roper & Cheney, 2005, p. 96). But since governments could not afford to provide social welfare to the same extent like during the 1980s, social problems had to be tackled as well by others. Again, these were mainly social entrepreneurs, with innovative and transformational problem solving.

In the 1990s, the ideas and visions underlying the concept of social entrepreneurship were supported and complemented by the emerging concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It implied a new understanding of business, one that goes beyond the business and increasing shareholder value. It guides companies to take on their social responsibility as corporate citizens.

In the last decades, communication technologies have made the global inequities that were accelerated by the forces of globalisation more visible (Gold, 2003, p. 166). This supported the conviction that governments are failing to solve the problems mainly because of the less inventive approaches compared to those of entrepreneurial citizen organisations (Bornstein, 2004, p. 8). Innovative means for international development are instead required (Gold, 2003, p. 166).

The dynamics of the citizen sector have become to a certain degree more favourable since the 1990s (Bornstein, 2004, p. 5). The economic, social and political constraints that once impeded it9 have dropped with the spread of democracy (Bornstein, 2004, p. 267). This has been supported by more people having the freedom, time, wealth and exposure to address social problems (Bornstein, 2004, p. 6). On the other hand, the financial conditions have changed considerably. While operating costs have soared, resources available from traditional sources have decreased, and the number of non-profits competing for grants and subsidies has more than tripled. This happened in contrast to an unceasing escalation of the number of people in need. (Boschee, 1998, p. 1; Sullivan Mort et al., 2002, p. 77) The


1 For more details on the targets and indicators of all MDGs please see page 79 in the appendix.

2 Human capital, essential infrastructure services and core political, social and economic rights are necessary elements of a productive life (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 13).

3 Officially agreed on grants and loans that donors, the developed countries, give to the developing countries.

4 All references to interviews will only be denoted as such when referred to the first time. Further references to the same interviewed will only be denoted with the name of the interviewed person and the date of the interview.

5 The UN Millennium Project calculated required ODA of US$135 billion in 2006, rising to US$195 billion in 2015 (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 58).

6 The target of 0.7 per cent of GNP of each advanced economy was first affirmed in 1970 in the General Assembly Resolution (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 59).

7 Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden (UN Millennium Project, 2005, p. 59).

8 E.g. labour unions, alcoholics anonymous, non-profit and non-governmental organisations etc. (Bornstein, 2004, p. 3)

9 For example lack of access to capital and education, communication costs, etc. (Bornstein, 2004, p. 267)

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Social Entrepreneurs as Agents for Environmental Sustainability
An Analysis of the Contribution of Selected Social Entrepreneurs to the Achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals
University of St. Gallen
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social, entrepreneurs, agents, environmental, sustainability, analysis, contribution, selected, achievement, united, nations, millennium, development, goals
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Alexandra Lau (Author), 2007, Social Entrepreneurs as Agents for Environmental Sustainability, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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