Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Change

The concept of social entrepreneurship is something that I find fascinating and that I will be continuing to research (maybe even attempt? spoiler alert) throughout my college experience.  It is one of those niche things that I didn’t know much of anything about before school and now it is one of the main things I think about.  College is crazy and wonderful about introducing people to things like that.

During some of the many hours I spent contemplating the net effects of global social entrepreneurship, I had the chance to hear speaker Ani Vallabhaneni speak on the venture he co-founded, Sanergy, which provides solutions to the sanitation crisis in Kenya through the sale of flush toilets.  Hang tight, this gets a little nerdy.

This luncheon contained a ton of valuable insight for me on the ways which social entrepreneurship can be more effective.  For example, Mr. Vallabhaneni shared their experience with the donation of toilets, where they returned two months later to find many out of service and many more simply unused because the people had no ownership.  At that moment, Sanergy shifted gears and instead began selling the toilets.  This gave buyers ownership and connected them to the mission (improved public health) in order to convice them to buy.

Mr. Vallabhaneni also shared that it is good in some cases to have more breadth than depth in partnerships, but public health is not one of those cases.  Because a significant portion of the population must make the switch to flush toilets before any disease reduction can be seen among the population, Sanergy has focused less on expanding outward and more on developing depth in Kenya.

This correlates with the concept of “embeddedness”– the level of connection a social business has with the community and population it is striving to aid.  By creating ownership and developing many relationships, Sanergy is creating a highly embedded model which will in turn be more successfully scalable to other communities than a business which had a wide reach but no depth within communities.

I could talk for a lot longer about social entrepreneurship (especially after completing a 36.3 page paper on it this semester… eeek) but for the sake of my readers, I will just say ask me if you want to know more.  We can grab coffee and talk about Westernization and globalization and capitalism until the sun rises, and it will be fun. 🙂


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