What Can Social Entrepreneurs Do for the Future of Indonesia?

By Nancy Margried on 08:45 pm Jun 10, 2014 in the Jakarta Globe
Category CommentaryOpinion

(JG Graphics/Josep Tri Ronggo Laksono)

With the upcoming election the question of who we prefer to lead the country has become one of the most discussed topics in Indonesia. But putting aside political debate that we are being exposed to these days, it will be a lot more enlightening to evaluate another type of leader that may profoundly change Indonesia in the future.

These leaders come from the business world, and are known as entrepreneurs. Many people disregard the fact that entrepreneurship comes in many packages; sure there are some conventional ones who focus almost solely on making as much money as possible. But we often overlook the other kind of entrepreneurs, those whose desire is not to acquire more wealth for themselves but mainly to empower others through their business ventures. They offer long-term solutions by embracing others in their social business and offer much more than just temporary aid. These entrepreneurs, who utilize entrepreneurial principles for the benefit of society, are called ‘social entrepreneurs.’

In a developing country such as Indonesia, the existence of social entrepreneurs is crucial and their number has expanded in the last 10 years. Indonesia needs leaders who can not only help people but also teach them how to independently achieve a better economic and social standing. Leaders with these qualities will not only help the country in terms of economic growth, but they will also promote equality, social engagement and public participation.

It can even be argued that the activities of social entrepreneurs will decrease the potential of social turmoil, which is often caused by a widening gap between a country’s haves and have nots.

One of the main factors that make social entrepreneur a great leader is his or her ability to inspire action that leads to positive change. Simon Sinek, who wrote the influential book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” explained that there always is strong reasoning — or a strong ‘why?’ — behind a great leader’s actions.

These leaders are deeply invested in their ideas and often prefer to change the direction of their field. Social entrepreneurs are the people who best fit these criteria; they are individuals who collectively desire to tackle major social issues and offer new ideas for wide-scale change through their business.

The pursuit of excellence in their business is not dedicated only to achieve individual success, but most importantly they are trying to make improve the quality of living for people in need.

Strong reasoning is the vital root that will help these social entrepreneurs survive in spite of the criticism and rejections coming from the general public and sometimes even those communities they are trying to help. Yet, if they manage to overcome these obstacles, they will be able to instigate radical change and inspire the community to take action according to their vision.

To survive and prosper, Indonesia needs more than the leadership coming from the big cities or the central government alone. This is simply not enough. Each and every rural area in Indonesia needs the presence of a leader.

Those who are neglected for whatever reason, like a lack of education, urgently need people who can awaken their fighting spirit. Time and time again we witness people forfeit in the game of life because of their personal economic turmoil. But social entrepreneurs are the leaders who may help these people cope.

For these reasons, it is very important for us to recognize the future social entrepreneurs in our midst as early as possible. Many big companies who are concerned about leadership organize events and competitions to select those among the younger generations whose eyes are set on the target to incorporate business models that are both socially responsible and economically viable.

Some companies hold annual competitions to honor university students for their creative and innovative social entrepreneurship ideas.

At the same time, universities in Indonesia have also introduced social entrepreneurship in their programs and see it as one significant aspect of economic development.

Thomas L. Friedman, the author of the famous book “The World Is Flat,” has stated that one of the newest figures to emerge on the world stage in recent years is the social entrepreneur:

“This is usually someone who burns with desire to make a positive social impact on the world, but believes that the best way of doing it is, as the saying goes, not by giving poor people a fish and feeding them for a day, but by teaching them to fish, in hopes of feeding them for a lifetime.”

Ultimately, whether it is in the realm of politics or economics, Indonesia needs such great leaders, those whose solutions are sustainable and long-lasting.

It may sound overtly ambitious to hope that we can achieve economic equality in a country with more than 250 million citizens any time soon. However, the existence of great leaders that can inspire people to create and make use of equal opportunities may be just one of the solutions for this crucial challenge.

Nancy Margried is an entrepreneur.