Entrepreneurial and Self-directed Service

These terms refer to service that is largely controlled by the volunteers doing it -- often people who want to experiment with new approaches and solutions.

Allison Fine for the Case Foundation. Social Citizens BETA addresses the unique characteristics of Millennials, who have grown up in a digital era, and "are equipped with innovative tools and ideas for bringing about change. This is a paper intended to start a "larger conversation with these 'social citizens, to share new ideas and "challenge perceptions about their approaches to being engaged." , 2013, pp. 65
Alltop: Social Entrepreneurship

Site that gathers news and information about social entrepreneurship and presents it in one place, with links.


Global organization seeking to allow "social entrepreneurs to thrive and enable the world's citizens to think and act as changemakers." See section of site defining a "social entrepreneur."

Ashoka - Innovators for the Public

Network of social entrepreneurs worldwide. 

Beth's Blog: "Free Agent" Category

Beth Kantor, online expert on social networking for nonprofits, has an active blog. One of her topics is "free agent" volunteers, which she defines as "a person (many times a GenY, but not always) who is a passionate about a social cause, but is working outside of a nonprofit organization to organize, mobilize, raise money, and engage with others."

Community Toolbox

The Community Tool Box offers over 7,000 free pages of practical guidance on essential skills for building healthy communities for people working to make a difference. The resources are organized by: 1) Learn a Skill (training in specific skills of community work); 2) Plan the Work (Toolkits outline tasks, examples, and supports for 16 core competencies); 3) Solve a Problem ("Troubleshooting Guides" for common challenges, questions for analysis, and links); 4) Use Promising Approaches (Evidence, examples, and links); and 5) Connect with Others (Learn from others by asking an advisor and finding other online resources).

Echoing Green

To accelerate social change, Echoing Green invests in and supports outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions.

i-Social Entrepreneurs

A UK organization "working to start, develop and sustain social enterprises, social firms and voluntary and community sector organisations."

Institute for Social Entrepreneurs

Jerr Boschee is a leading authority on social entrepreneurship, the strategy of building economically viable businesses that focus on sustainable development and serving community needs. This site provides information, education and training resources to help launch and expand social enterprises in the United States and around the world. Many free resources to download.

National Network for Collaboration Training

Devoted to "the goal of community collaboration,...to bring individuals and members of communities, agencies and organizations together in an atmosphere of support to systematically solve existing and emerging problems that could not be solved by one group alone. Offers a variety of tools, self-training materials, and more to support community collaborative efforts.

Social Citizens Blog

Next iteration of what had been the Case Foundation's "Social Citizen" project on how Millennials will change the world. Now run on Reddit by the Collaborative Fund (as of 2013).

Social Enterprise section of Free Management Library

Carter MacNamara has added this topic, with a comprehensive list of links, to his online library of management topics.

Social ROI: A Social Entrepreneurship Blog

"A blog about how social entrepreneurship is making this world a better place."

Social Ventures Partners

"A network of engaged philanthropists who believe that they can have a positive impact on their communities and who use innovative strategies to address complex social issues."

Venture Philanthropy Partners

"A philanthropic investment organization that helps great leaders build strong, high-performing nonprofit institutions."

De-mystifying the Concept of Social Entrepreneurship
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Words, as we all know, can clarify or complicate. If you've been confused about the way phrases such as "social enterprise" or "social entrepreneurship" are being used, here's a quick primer on terminology.

Corporate Social Responsibility (which has been in use for a long time), is applied when a business considers its "bottom line" to be more than financial profit and demonstrates tangible concern for the environment, good working conditions for its employees, humane treatment of animals, and/or other legal and ethical ways to be a "good corporate citizen." Employee volunteer programs fall into this category, as does financial philanthropy.

Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship are newer terms used to describe several different things:

  1. A company that is for-profit, but directs its business profits towards meeting social needs. Can include:
    • Giving all or a percentage of profits to charity.
    • Hiring or training people in need to be its labor force.
    • Locating in places selected to stimulate economic development.
    • Fair trade practices, without exploiting underdeveloped artisans or tradespeople.
    • Sometimes recruit volunteers to help staff retail shops to increase ultimate revenues from sales that can then be directed to charitable work.
  2. A not-for-profit organization that runs a business enterprise in order to fund its work (cash income) or meet its mission (e.g., retraining the unemployed).
  3. A business or a nonprofit founded specifically to address a social need, in an effort to solve a community problem or demonstrate alternate ways of offering services - almost always employing the ethical principles of good corporate social responsibility. Examples:
    • Renewable energy alternatives.
    • Urban car- or bicycle-share projects.
    • Recycling of used computers to give to the poor.

Which brings us to the "entrepreneurship model" of volunteering. First, this includes anyone who founds or runs any of the above types of enterprises. Such "social entrepreneurs" are very often volunteers - at least in the beginning. There's nothing new about this, since all social innovation begins with activists willing to work hard to establish something they believe in. But now it has a name.

The second - and perhaps more interesting - use of the term social entrepreneur refers to volunteers who want to innovate or experiment with new ways of addressing needs. Specifically, these people are looking for ways

  • To be creative in approaching community or client needs - not to "fill a slot" of a job-like volunteer position description.
  • To innovate - not to perpetuate traditional, possibly failed, ways of giving services.
  • To be able to apply their skills, talents, and time to changing/improving the world, not just "helping" an organization.

While this approach to volunteer work design has recently been extolled as the best way to recruit both Baby Boomers and Millennials/Generation Y (who have quite a bit in common despite the age gap), it really is a great way to get out of the trap of considering volunteers as staff "assistants." It presupposes that someone from the "outside" might bring a fresh perspective to an organization's challenges and that volunteers who participate in creating the projects they tackle will develop longer and deeper engagement with the cause.

Law Enforcement Settings

Supervision Involves Trust
Submitted by Barbara Lightheart, Travis County Jail , Texas, USA

Supervision involves trust. About a quarter of the 380 volunteers here are Twelve-Step volunteers, who lead AA, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous meetings to supplement our in-house drug and alcohol treatment program. We know these Twelve-Step programs are vitally important to our inmates so we do what to some volunteer coordinators and direct supervisors may seem very unorthodox: we let these volunteers replenish their own numbers by recruiting others. I do not recruit, interview or screen them because we understand the anonymous nature of their work and we trust these volunteers to do their work effectively and successfully. They do.