There is a breed of thinking that is gaining momentum on ways to tackle environmental and social challenges.

Termed 'social entrepreneurship' it encompasses the traditional capitalist way of reaching out to markets with a business-driven approach, but incorporates something good either for the environment or socially.

Although this concept is far from new, it is clear that more and more ultra-connected young people want to support businesses and organisations that deliver positive outcomes to communities at the same time as making money.

There is evidence of this change happening everywhere - the success of the Fair Trade movement is a prime example.


This weekend a large crowd has descended on our national museum for the Festival for the Future where young people are inspired by social entrepreneurs and given tools to succeed in whatever makes them passionate. Big public institutions like Massey University and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (among others) are supporting the concept and the fact that it has sold out proves the growing momentum in this field.

We now have a school for social innovation and Auckland Council has even employed an advisor on social entrepreneurship.

But as the late Sir Peter Blake said: "Having vision is not enough. Change comes through realising the vision and turning it into a reality. It is easy to espouse worthy goals, values and policies; the hard part is implementation."

The term 'entrepreneur' is rooted in the concept of implementation. There are a great number of ideas flowing around out there on how we can improve our environment, but still few that get enough traction to make change happen on a large scale. Those who just flap around like a free-range chicken, only networking with other like-minded people, will never change the mainstream population unless they can branch outside of their organic comfort zones.

There are also many in this field that rely on tax or ratepayer money to survive, which does not sit well with the concept of entrepreneurship.

But then we come across the exceptions such as Pat Shepherd , Guy Ryan and Sam Johnson (to name a few) who manage to use their passion to fuel change. These are the true breed of 'social entrepreneurs'. Their achievements are considerable and their ability to encourage change is infectious.

What gives me hope is that events like the Festival for the Future are helping young passionate people to explain to the world how their good ideas fit within the core concept of change for the better: something that improves the economy at the same time as social or environmental outcomes.