Running a Social Enterprise in Education: Great Tips & Examples

As we grow old the aspirations of becoming doctors, teachers and do good to bring a change fades away for some unknown reasons.  We see people pass us by and we aren’t moved to help them.

Somewhere along the line we could not help ourselves to fight against the odds to fulfill the careers and aspirations we dreamt of. Some of the biggest challenges are faced due to the fallback in the education systems we come from. The education sector does have certain problems that are existing from long time but also it is one of the most accessible sectors. Many education social enterprises have been doing phenomenal work to help raise the bar of the community.     

Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.”- Bill Drayton, Founder, Ashoka Changemakers.

International social entrepreneur network Ashoka’s chapter in India, Ashoka India, identifies and selects social entrepreneurs for a Fellowship every year. Ashoka India helps these social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to social problems. Some of the education focused social enterprises under Ashoka India fellowship are mentioned below with a dig in the work that is being done by these enterprises.

LeapForWord is working for that sector who cannot afford quality education; schooling in India can be a nightmare, especially because of the lack of teaching in English. To help students in rural India learn English and unlock their potential, Pranil Naik has designed a unique, plug-and-play model which democratizes teaching and learning of English. From curriculum and delivery mechanism to after school classes, Naik has created an easy atmosphere for learning.  Their English literacy program is changing the way students are learning. All their content is digitized and delivered through Micro SD data cards which play even on low-end mobile phones. Check more about the program.

Adhyayan believes that one of the fundamental problems with the public education system is accountability of teachers and administrators. School-audits are conducted but not always effective. Kavita Anand is fundamentally transforming the way school audits take place to become a powerful tool in the hands of every school. By placing the process of audits in the hands of ‘insiders’ in schools, like parents, staff and students, she is shifting it from a process of scrutiny to that of self-evaluation and reflection. After the review process an action plan is created to chart the course of improvement of each school. Check their case studies here.   

There are a lot many such organizations that are working for the welfare of those struggling with their fundamental right to education. Other than these, there are some platforms that are trying to bring about a change in the accessibility to the education by the means of using technology.  Platforms like eBasta have also helped the lower income communities to get access to the quality educational resources. Other notable players are Hippocampus, Experifun and the Teach for India Foundation. They also have contributed in making quality education a reality for those who dream of it. 

Other examples and tips to consider before starting a social enterprise in education continued on the next page...


Some other great mentions are Bridge International Academies Mission  which aims to provide every child with the chance to have a high-quality primary education regardless of their family’s income – in a nutshell, “Knowledge for all.” They academies leverage world-class pedagogy and school management and are able to sustain themselves on fees that are lower than 70% of the other low-cost private schools in local communities. At an average cost of just $6 a month, 90% of families in communities can afford to send all of their children – both boys and girls – to their academies, plus they have a sponsorship program to provide additional support to high achievers. They will be operating in at least a dozen countries, and have 10,000,000 pupils coming to class every day.

Textbooks for Change is another social venture and B Corp that provides affordable and accessible educational material to students both locally and abroad. They repurpose used textbooks to create social impact and improve the educational landscape for students around the world. They do this by donating thousands of post-secondary textbooks to East African universities annually. Selling affordable used textbooks to North American students and using proceeds to help fund student-led impact initiatives.

Other than these and more such initiatives, universities at their individual level also extend a helping hand to improve the literacy levels. 

The Social Innovation Initiative at the Swearer Center at Brown University provides support to students and the campus around SII’s “four pillars”—academic connections, extra-curricular experiences, job and internship opportunities, and network building—the initiative is creating a broad based culture of social entrepreneurship on campus at Brown. Their programs include the C.V. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship, which includes extensive training, seed funding, and advising for young social entrepreneurs.

Another one is the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship that offers Middlebury students a wide range of learning opportunities, including an annual symposium featuring the brightest stars of social entrepreneurship, summer grants, multi-year fellowships, and the MLab, a weekly discussion for students learning about the challenges of social change leadership. Additionally, the center convenes leaders from college campuses around the U.S. to share their learning in social entrepreneurship in liberal arts education.

And one more program that might interest the readers is Social Enterprise In Education Program which was created as a partnership between the Social Enterprise Academy and the Scottish Government (Social Enterprise Scotland) to support the development of enterprise, employability and entrepreneurial skills in young people and to promote awareness of social enterprise as a way of doing better business in Scotland.

The Social Enterprise Academy has been working with young people in schools since 2007 and has a proven track record on delivering learning that is relevant, engaging, creative, inspirational and contextualized for young people. In effect learning that changes lives. The program is aimed at young people aged between 3 to 18 years and runs in nursery, primary, secondary and additional support needs schools across Scotland.

Get complete details on the program here.

Programs, enterprises and initiatives like these signify the cutting edge of social entrepreneurship and inspire others to make a move. One thing is sure that one of the core social problems is lack of quality education and for some even the availability of the basic fundamental education, there are people inclined towards the betterment of the sector.  

The post would lack something if not quoted Muhammad Yunus, the Founder of Grameen Bank and a Nobel Prize Winner who says, “When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences.”

So, for those who are inspired and aspire to become social entrepreneur and bring about a change in the society for the welfare of all following are few tips that would help them explore about what they are getting into and how they can justify the cause they are thinking of: 

1. Believe In Your Idea:

As you look around there are a lot of people who have contributed to the society with their social enterprises in a huge manner while few dust got lost somewhere along the way. Passion persuades people to support so make sure that you are passionate about what you are getting yourself into. It’s imperative that you believe in your idea throughout your journey.

2. Understand The Problem And Then Come Up With A Solution:

As a social entrepreneur you need to convince people to trust you—to fund you, to invest their time, to leave better paying jobs to support your cause. For this to happen it is mandatory that you understand the various branches that relates to the cause you are up to. You need to clearly understand the problem in order to come out with the solution.    

3. Get In Touch With Experts:

Do your homework right and so research and research a lot. Get in touch with the experts to understand about the practical ways of working in the industry you are going to step into. Learn from them to do better.

4. Go To People With A Plan And Not The Idea:

You need to go to those peers with a plan, not just an idea. It needs to be thought through – at least initially. Then you can ask them to work with you on it or even help you critique it so you can take it to the next stage. It’s important that you present your plan in a way that’s convincing, confident and respectful of what they’re doing. Remember that confidence helps you go a long way.

5. Make Sure Your Board Of Members Share The Same Vision As You:

Your mission and your business plan are both equally important when wooing investors and Board members. You are looking for people who share your values as same as you. You need people who will be patient and supportive, rather than looking for a quick return, or immediate success. Make sure that you have the right set of members along your journey that share the same vision as you.

6. Have A Practical Plan With An Inspiring Vision:

Understand that a social enterprise is still a business. Even though you are working to make the society a better place, it important to consider the revenue that is being generated. This implies to impact growth as well as financial growth.

And don’t forget to reflect as to understand what works and what doesn’t!

7. Get Support From Media:

Once you have started with the functions and you see things working out even a little, it’s important to spread the word. To get support from people get in touch with media and spread the word. This media attention is incredibly helpful for a social enterprise.

What is your take on the idea of starting with an education social enterprise? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and make sure you mention other social enterprises working for education that you know of. 

About the Author
Author: Priyanka Gupta
Priyanka is a blogger by profession and has an increasing interest to write about the edtech space. While writing she keeps in mind the educators to come up with right resources and ideas which might be relevant for them in relation to effective use of technology in their profession and institutions/classrooms.
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