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Tucker Student Spotlight

Eliza Rockefeller '17

Eliza Rockefeller
Assistant for Multi-Faith Programs

Major: Religion Major and Studio Art Minor

Hometown: New York City, NY

Read the full interview

What is a Social Entrepreneur?

Just as entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches and creating sustainable solutions to change society for the better. Unlike business entrepreneurs who are motivated by profits, however, social entrepreneurs are motivated to improve society. But social entrepreneurs are just as innovative and change-oriented as their business counterparts, always searching for new and better ways to solve the problems that plague society.

In our case, social entrepreneurs are Dartmouth undergraduate students and/or community leaders of the Upper Valley with an innovative, sustainable idea or model to improve social and/or economic opportunities for disadvantaged members of the local community.

In the broader society, social entrepreneurs are:

  • Ambitious: Social entrepreneurs tackle real social issues, from increasing the college enrollment rate of local low-income students to increasing job opportunities for the unemployed (or underemployed) to providing needed social services more effectively. These entrepreneurial leaders may be individuals or may operate within non-profit organizations, social purpose ventures such as for-profit community development banks, and hybrid organizations that mix elements of nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
  • Mission driven: Generating social value - not wealth - is the central criterion of a successful social entrepreneur. While wealth creation may be part of the process, it is not an end in itself. Promoting sustainable social change is the real objective.
  • Strategic: Like business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs see and act upon what others miss: opportunities to improve systems, create solutions and invent new approaches that create social value. And like the best business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs are intensely focused and hard-driving - even relentless - in their pursuit of a social vision.
  • Resourceful: Because social entrepreneurs operate within a social context rather than the business world, they have limited access to capital and traditional market support systems. As a result, social entrepreneurs must be exceptionally skilled at mustering and mobilizing human, financial and political resources.
  • Results oriented: Ultimately, social entrepreneurs are driven to produce measurable returns. These results transform our communities, open up new pathways for the marginalized and disadvantaged, and unlock society’s potential to effect social change.

Social entrepreneurs share a commitment to pioneering innovations that reshape society and benefit humanity. Quite simply, they are solution-minded pragmatists who are not afraid to tackle society’s problems, at the local levels.

Social entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see intractable problems. They apply innovative solutions to social, economic and environmental issues, empowering people and communities to create positive change. Their work can reduce economic disparities, increase opportunities for the disadvantaged, promote healthier communities and increase the interpersonal and intercultural understanding that is the foundation for a better community and a better world.

Last Updated: 8/7/11