IR Careers

Career paths in social entrepreneurship

Many graduates of International Relations often wonder what they are supposed to do with the skills acquired during their studies. Some are eager to work at international organizations, think tanks and government branches. However, there are also many students who would prefer creating their own personal projects and are not interested in joining hierarchical structures.

Although entrepreneurship and international relations might not be an obvious link, there is one kind of enterprise approach that benefits greatly from the skills offered by an international relations degree –  social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship, according to the PBS Foundation, “is an approach by start-up companies and entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.” Students of international relations are routinely asked to analyze and weigh these kinds of issues in their coursework, as they are important questions for global governance and international politics. And international relations students are also familiar with the kind of international organizations that might invest in social entrepreneurship projects as well as the countries more hospitable to such initiatives.

For social entrepreneurs, a degree in international relations is definitely an asset. A better understanding of international economics and law and an understanding of the concepts that dominate international development and cooperation significantly adds to the credibility and expertise of a social entrepreneur.

Here are some of the ways for you to explore a career path in social entrepreneurship:

Be a changemaker

Changemaker is a social enterprise lingo for the founders of socially-foward enterprises. Usually, the founders of these kinds of companies are idealistic, hardworking and creative. Social entrepreneurs usually choose to work in one of three ways: they can create income-generating activities to fund other activities, meaning the income-generating one is not the main focus but serves to make the organization less dependent on donors; they can create for-profit enterprises with a social focus, such as sustainable fashion or other eco-friendly products; they can create hybrid structures that mix different kinds of financing models.

Be an intermediary

If you think social entrepreneurship is amazing, but you do not have the resources to start your own, you might consider working for a network that provides skills and trainings for social entrepreneurs. These kind of professionals and mentors are incredibly important to push social agendas forward.  Support systems like the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network help individuals and startups sustain their social projects and connect with others that are working on similar aims.

Be a funder

Well, not you personally of course – but there are many foundations, incubators, crowdfunding platforms, venture philanthropy firms and venture capital funds that specialize solely on identifying social enterprises worth investing in. These kinds of funders are what makes social entrepreneurship possible, and it is difficult to analyze who should and shouldn’t be funded.

As it is the case in other areas, there is also a worrying financing gap, particularly for women social entrepreneurs. You can see some of the major investors in social enterprises here and how some of them are trying to close the gender gap.

Outside of the social entrepreneurship roles we’ve explored, there are numerous career paths that focus on social agendas. Many governments and development projects across the globe are placing more weight on innovative social solutions . As a result, we expect to see social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility models increasingly incorporated into traditional sectors, such as banking and manufacturing.

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