3 Leaders in Social Entrepreneurship Making a Difference in Boston


Social entrepreneurs recognize social issues and challenges that are not being adequately addressed and find new ways to attack these issues and challenges. When a social entrepreneur identifies what is not working, they get to work developing new and innovative ways solves the problem by changing systems and creating new solutions. The goal of a social entrepreneur is to produce a measurable impact and create social value while unlocking the potential for social change.

According to David Bornstein author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas,

“Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.”

Jane Wei-Killern of the Harvard Business School differentiates social entrepreneurship from entrepreneurship when she writes,

“social entrepreneurship extends beyond more narrow definitions of social entrepreneurship that simply apply business expertise and armlet-based skills to nonprofits… the opportunities and challenges in the field of social entrepreneurship requires not only the creative combination and adaptation of social and commercial approaches but also the development of new conceptual frameworks and strategies tailored specifically to social value creation.”

Social entrepreneurs differ from business entrepreneurs by focusing on their mission which is central to the work that they do. For business wealth creation is the end goal of entrepreneurial efforts and the sole measure of value creation. For social entrepreneurs, wealth creation is a means to an end, not an end it itself. Income and wealth generated through their efforts is channeled back into the effort to continue to create social value.

While Boston is known for its innovations in technology, medical research and treatment and science, it is less known but not any less a leader in social entrepreneurial ideas. Boston’s social entrepreneurs are changing the ways that seemingly intractable social issues are addressed and they are changing lives and whole communities along the way.

Examples of these include Artists for Humanity, Kporma Org, and Fresh Food Generation.

Artists for Humanity (AFH) was founded in 1991 by Susan Rogerson and Jason Talbot with the mission to “bridge economic, racial and social divisions by providing under-resourced youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts.”

WATCH: WGBH Visits Artists for Humanity in South Boston

Kporma Org was founded by three young women of Liberian heritage who returned to there in 2012 to find it decimated by civil war with entire communities destroyed. They founded Kporma to focus on the education of the country’s youth. According to their web site, their model utilizes local resources to succeed. We work with local communities to supply the laborers, materials and a site to build our after-school resource rooms and centers. We also work with local schools and teachers to recruit students to our programs. We employ community volunteers to run all our after school initiatives. It is often said that “it takes a village to raise a child” and in this light that Kporma operates. Everything we do is community-based and centered.

WATCH: Education Can Save Rural Liberia

Fresh Food Generation serves the communities of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, three communities with diabetes and obesity rates almost three times the average in Boston. Its mission is to improve access to healthy, affordable, cooked foods in low-income neighborhoods. This year they will be launching a food truck that will serve on-the-go meals made with ingredients sourced from local farms. The truck will target neighborhoods in the Greater Boston Area with limited access to high quality foods and with high rates of diabetes and obesity. They are committed to hiring young adults in the communities we serve to help operate the truck and lead food education campaigns.

Irwin Nesoff Speaks at Massachusetts Nonprofit Network 2013 Conference
Irwin Nesoff, photo via Instagram

Irwin Nesoff is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership and Policy. Prior to joining the faculty at Wheelock, he was a member of the social work faculty at Kean University in Union, New Jersey for 13 years. He received his Masters of Social Work degree from the Hunter College School of Social Work and his Doctorate in Social Welfare from the City University of New York Graduate Center. He has also taught in the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Pubic Service of NYU, and earned a certificate in nonprofit management from Columbia University.