While he didn't spawn the movement, Bill Drayton has been called the godfather of social entrepreneurship and first coined the phrase "social entrepreneur" in writing more than 40 years ago. Since then, he has led a multi-generational effort to do good in society by starting and running Ashoka, which provides startup financing and support services to a network of more than 3,000 fellows across some 70 countries.

But what, exactly, is a social entrepreneur? And can you count yourself as one?

The word has been used a lot lately to describe anyone doing even a bit of social good--like those giving a portion of the revenues from their consultancy or app business to a charitable cause. But Drayton argues virtually every business these days has some kind of social purpose component that benefits society--"except maybe drug dealing," he recently deadpanned.

During my recent meetings with Drayton--on the phone, over a private dinner with about a dozen guests and at a public conversation co-presented by MaRS Discovery District, Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and Ashoka Canada--he clarified some of the terminology that many people often misuse within this growing sector. Consider this your cheat sheet to avoid any embarrassing slipups when introducing yourself, or your work.

Social Entrepreneur
Time for a brief "yes" or "no" pop quiz:

1. Are you a primarily focused on being a direct product or service provider? (Meaning, is your goal to see an ever-growing number of shoes or apps sold, or children taught?)

2. Are you changing the pattern of your field, or society, in some new way? (Bernard Amadei, for example, founded Engineers Without Borders and revamped the traditional training model for establishing professional standards so that they more closely aligned with issues such as tackling poverty, hunger and disease.)

3. Are you changing the mindset of people and how they see the world? (Consider Mary Gordon's work teaching more than 500,000 young school children to become more empathic through her Roots of Empathy program.)

If you answered "yes" to numbers two and three, congratulations, you're a bonafide social entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur
If you responded "yes" to the first question above then--according to Drayton, at least--you're most likely an entrepreneur of the traditional variety. Put another way, he notes:

"The word 'social' means that the person is guided centrally by a commitment to the good of all, and therefore the work is. That is in contrast to many entrepreneurs who have narrower objectives--they have their family's interests, self-interests, shareholders' interests or some idealistic or religious goal. This is not a criticism of [entrepreneurs], but there is a special need for the entrepreneurs who are in it for the good of all."

Social Enterprise
You've no doubt heard of the "one-for-one" (or "buy one, give one") business model, which TOMS has helped popularize with shoes, eyewear and, most recently, coffee. But this company and similar ventures (like Yoobi, which launched a line of school and office supplies in June, where some items get donated to schools in need) operate as for-profit social enterprises with giving integrated into their missions.

So should their founders be considered social entrepreneurs? Not according to Drayton, unless their main focus is addressing a social issue--ahead of everything else, including generating revenues or profits.

Changemaker
"Everyone can be, and everyone must be, a changemaker," says Drayton, who uses this term for individuals who help make a positive difference in the world. Oftentimes, it's on a local, rather than large-scale, level.

Think of this category as good fit if you lack the passion, or innovative idea, to drive a social venture where the main mission is to change the world for the better.

Published on: Jul 8, 2014