Social Work vs. Social Entrepreneurship: What can we learn from each other?

Today Rachel Reese, an undergraduate at the Silver School of Social Work at NYU, organized an information session between social workers and social entrepreneurs.

From the social work side were several grad and undergrad students, all interested in learning more about how the skills and mindsets of a social entrepreneur can help magnify the impact of their efforts. From the other side were grads and undergrads from Wagner, Stern, Gallatin and CAS (a testament to the multidisciplinary nature of social entrepreneurship) who were eager to soak up as much information as they could about this dedicated and energetic cadre of individuals working for the betterment of the disenfranchised within society.

One of the most enlightening summaries of what exactly it is that social workers do, put forth by Andrew Sullivan--a sophomore of the Silver School--was that social work addresses the population that the market and policy have not. Contrast this to the social entrepreneur's mission--to extend the market into areas it has not been able to reach previously--and you notice a very complementary, yet mutually exclusive relationship. Where social entrepreneurship advances, social work's role is reduced.

The trick then is to find a way to increase the information flow between the two communities. Social workers understand the communities they work in extremely well and would have great insight into the way a social entrepreneur's innovation would be received or might change community dynamics. Social entrepreneurs have the organizational/fundraising/business savvy to bring these insights to market.

Rachel and her co-organizer, Amanda Raposo, are looking to hold a similar event next semester. Anybody interested in getting involved with this discussion from the New York area should hit me up on twitter and I'll direct you to the right people.