Can social entrepreneurship be useful in long-term recovery from disasters?

(Courtesy of Flickr/Aleksandar Cocek)

Social enterprises (SEs) and social entrepreneurial organizations have great potential in providing humanitarian services, according to data collected from Egypt, Lebanon, Nigeria and multiple other countries.

These organizations also have the ability to build business models and design sustainability and scalability aspects for their operations that can bring long-term development to impoverished communities.

These findings were the outcome of a research paper entitled “How social entrepreneurship can be useful in long-term recovery from disasters,” which was published in the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management. The paper was a joint project between Dr. Sherwat Elwan Ibrahim from the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Dr. Raghda El Ebrashi from the German University in Cairo (GUC).

The main aim of the paper was to explore the role of social enterprises and social entrepreneurial organizations in providing long-term recovery humanitarian services and to highlight the unique attributes that make social entrepreneurs valuable players.

The practical implications of the research paper are rather significant as the positioning of social entrepreneurial organizations as humanitarian service providers would open up opportunities for new collaborations between donors and social organizations.

The research identified clear contributions of social entrepreneurship in providing humanitarian and development services and categorized them according to service operations management stages. The collected data, which was gathered through semi-structured interviews, direct observations and secondary sources with social entrepreneurial organizations, showcased SEs’ ability to access local data and understand the local needs, their ability to design services based on beneficiaries’ needs, as well as design auxiliary services, and the ability to deliver various services through specially designed facilities, policies and multi-partnerships.

Accordingly, SEs are able to reach many customers through various means and providing various sustainable services to community members.

Additionally, the authors found that mainstream non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dominate the scene of serving local communities; marginalizing the social entrepreneurial organizations with the substantial room for innovation that they might bring to the sector.

The data included in the research paper also showed additional benefits that were not initially expected, in terms of networking in local areas, understanding local needs in the context of national needs, innovation through finding new solutions to social problems, business model development, innovation in service delivery, policy flexibility and dynamism, professional management of staff and volunteers, measurement of social impact, and franchising and replication.

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