Social entrepreneurship, using commercial business models to solve social problems, emerged about ten years ago and became very popular in the last 2-3 years. Reasons for the emergence of social entrepreneurship might include:
- Better information made the scale of the social problems so dramatic that people were motivated to act
- The Gates Foundation and others brought new attention and management concepts to address social problems
- The morality of capitalism was called into question by the 2008 financial crisis and social entrepreneurship was part of the effort to show capitalism in a better light
While all of these reasons sound logical and perhaps admirable, maybe they were all just a coincidence.
Maybe social entrepreneurship emerged because of robots. No, robots are not yet managing society. I would have heard at MIT if that were true. Rather, as robots, automation and AI increasingly take over routine low value-added jobs there will still be work to be done by many. many humans both in the U.S. and abroad. Humans will still be required to solve complex problems such as social issues. Complex social problems do not lend themselves to resolution through computational approaches, even assuming the data were available and correct.
Social problems lend themselves to the types of approaches that are being tried in social entrepreneurship. By the time we refine our understanding of effective social entrepreneurship, there should be a large workforce displaced by robots ready to work on social problems. Social entrepreneurship may have emerged because humans need a new model to work from. So the bad news is that you are most likely going to lose your job to a robot. The good news is that you are going to be paid to save the world.
This post was inspired by an article at RobotEnomics, "Robots may take your job but it could lead to a more humane society". I love the blog tagline, "Tracking the march of the robot economy". I recommend you subscribe to the blog. Until the robots start blogging, this is the next best read on the subject.