Social enterprise: From problem solving to creating new possibilities

By Michelle Strutzenberger, Axiom News

In one of the Social Enterprise World Forum’s closing sessions, author and entrepreneur Ron Schultz made a number of rallying calls to the delegates gathered, including asking those who’ve launched and run social enterprises, “How many of you are willing to put yourselves out of business?”

The implication was that social enterprise is in the business of solving problems and ideally there comes a day when that problem has been solved – eradicating the need for the enterprise.

But might there be opportunity to expand the definition of the social enterprise role from that of simply solving problems to creating new possibilities? If so, how might the guiding questions one asks in shaping an enterprise be different? What could be the ramifications of doing so – for the enterprise itself, its supporting ecosystem and society in general? Even, how might the energy around the enterprise be different?

The argument could be made that this just comes down to subtly different paradigms framing the same issue, and that it’s an unnecessary complication of simple matters.

However, if we agree with organizational thought leader David Cooperrider that “words create worlds,” then one’s choice of paradigm could indeed be critical. What kind of world do you want to live in and help create?

Consider the difference in questions a possibility-oriented approach to social enterprise could include: What new possibilities might this social enterprise create for our neighbourhood, our region, the world? What energizes me most about this? How does it link to what else is emerging in the world? What’s possible now that wasn’t possible before? What needs to happen next?

At the very least, such an enterprise would likely have less reason to be dissolved – at least not for a long time.

This story originally appeared on ENP Canada’s website.


ENP Canada has partnered with Axiom News to explore the Canadian social enterprise movement one story at a time. Each story will provide snapshots and profiles of local social enterprises and the emerging, supportive environment. This story is one of hundreds we will be publishing. Check in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the latest news.


Axiom News is also a SEWF 2013 media partner.


More About SEWF


sewfThe Trico Charitable Foundation was honoured to host SEWF 2013. It made history in a number of ways – it was a first for Canada and attracted a record number of speakers and attendees (1,000 individuals from more than 30 countries and over 100 speakers from 20 countries) – but we are most proud of the quality of the discussions on Skills Building, Social Finance, Indigenous Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Policy and Research, and Social Innovation.


We would like to thank the following partners for making SEWF 2013 possible:


Organizing Partners:

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Media Partners:

SEWF2014 web bannerEach year SEWF gives a different host country an incredible opportunity to celebrate and nurture its own social enterprise movement. The inaugural SEWF met in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since then it has been to Melbourne, Australia; San Francisco, U.S.A; Johannesburg, Africa; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Learn more about SEWF’s history here.


SEWF 2014 will be held in Seoul, Korea from October 12-16. Hosted by the Work Together Foundation, this significant international gathering has an ambitious agenda: “Social Change through Social Enterprise”. Learn more here.

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