This is a story about social entrepreneurship at its best. A true social startup.
My two and a half-year-old daughter attends the
therapeutic daycare at Beit Issie Shapiro
in Ra’anana, Israel.
Beit Issie Shapiro’s mission is to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities and their families. The organization has a measurable impact on some 30,000 people, every year.
Beit Issie Shapiro represents all that’s good and right in entrepreneurship. It was founded in 1980 by the family of the late Issie Shapiro, who believed that “all people have the right to attain full human potential and dignity”.
From the instant you walk through the doors you sense that there is something special and different about this place. It’s the people. They are not there to do a job. They are there on a mission.
The people of Beit Issie share a meaningful purpose of caring for, and helping children with special needs develop and realize their potential. They do it because it’s their passion. They do it with love, care, and dedication.
Why we need more Social Entrepreneurs
The leaders of Beit Issie Shapiro are social entrepreneurs. Their intent is to identify the needs of special children and their families and provide them with the right solutions.
They strive to create a model of excellence. They are at the forefront of innovation in the field of children with special needs. Additionally, they proliferate the solutions that they’ve successfully developed and deployed at Beit Issie to similar organizations in Israel and around the world. They regularly train and educate therapists and child care professionals from all over the world.
For example, Beit Issie Shapiro is well known as the pioneer and developer of the Snoezelen – a controlled multi-therapeutic method, and its use in treating children with special needs. Beit Issie Shapiro has taught practitioners and has guided the setting up of more than 400 Snoezelen rooms. Today Snoezelen is being used to treat people in a wide range of settings. Both in Israel and other countries. Including by hospitals (treating burn victims, cancer patients, etc.), homes for seniors (people with Dementia), children with a wide range of sensory and cognitive difficulties, and schools.
Clearly, the world needs many more organizations like Beit Issie Shapiro. The challenge is encouraging and assisting social entrepreneurs to develop and launch successful ventures.
How can we Encourage Social Entrepreneurship?
Unlike technology start-ups, which attract venture capital and private investors, social start-ups have a much harder time raising money. Furthermore, while there are many incubators
, accelerators, and courses for hi-tech entrepreneurs, there are none for social entrepreneurs.
The reason is simple: there are no lucrative ‘exits’ or big money in social entrepreneurship. It’s all about giving, and that’s not a powerful motivation for most entrepreneurs. Nor is it an attractive business model to investors.
To change this reality, I believe there is a need for three critical elements.
Awareness. There is a need for a wide exposure for social entrepreneurship, highlighting success stories, and role models. Ideally, such awareness campaigns should include prominent social and business leaders, as well as famous celebrities. A great example is CNN Heroes.
Funding. There is a need for special funds for social start-ups, similar to how VCs fuel hi-tech start-ups. As a start, wealthy individuals, such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and others can start their own funds. Also, large corporations can create social venture funds, similar to their capital funds, such as Intel Capital, Google Ventures, etc.
Incubators. To encourage and accelerate the growth of social entrepreneurship, there is a need for incubators, and accelerators, similar to what’s available to hi-tech entrepreneurs. For example Seedcamp, Techstars, Founders Institute, 500 Startups, and Sandbox.
In the midst of the worst global depression in almost a century, we’re witnessing a stronger than ever interest in entrepreneurship. This could propel the world to a level of wealth never seen before. Scientific discoveries and technological innovations can be integrated into the fabric of society faster than ever before.
One can only hope that some of these entrepreneurial efforts will be directed to address the most pressing global challenges. For example water, energy, food, health, poverty, and education.