In order to move into the mainstream, thought leaders agree, social entrepreneurs need help organizing and scaling. With time, the field may even merge with a socially responsible corporate sector. This requires a stricter definition of social entrepreneurship, some argue.

— We should not define all political advocacy as social entrepreneurship, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said in Stanford Social Innovation Review Live Webinar on «The Past and Future of Social Entrepreneurship.

The webinar featured, in addition to Martin, Leticia M. Jáuregui, Soroya Salti and Johanna Mair, and was moderated by Eric Nee, the Managing Editor of Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR).

Nee ignited the discussion by asking: «Do we agree what a social entrepreneur is?»

Martin advocates a stricter definition, whereby the term «entrepreneur» receives more weight leaving «social» as a mere modifier. For him social entreprenurship is mostly about entreprenurship, and the «social» is the aim.

Martin writes in an SSIR article: «Social entrepreneurship is an appealing construct precisely because it holds such high promise. If that promise is not fulfilled because too many “nonentrepreneurial” efforts are included in the definition, then social entrepreneurship will fall into disrepute, and the kernel of true social entrepreneurship will be lost.»

Others are content with a leaner approach.

— For research purposes, we need to be explicit about what we mean by the term «social entreprenur,» Johanna Mair said. Mair is the Academic Editor of SSIR. Other than that, she is fine with people defining the field in their own ways.

The other main topic of the webinar was the future of social entrepreneurship. What will the field look like in 10 years from now?

— Social entrepreneurship will merge with an increasingly responsible corporate sector, Soroya Salti argued. Salti works for Injaz al-Arab, an organization that works to «inspire entrepreneurialism and business innovation in Arab youth».

The relatively modern buzz-word corporate social responsibility attempts to describe an alternative bottom line of social impact. Whether Salti believes corporations will swallow the social entrepreneurship altogheter, or merely lend its credibility to the field, is less clear.

Leticia M. Jáuregui, co-founder and executive director of CREA, a Mexican non-profit focusing on helping women succeed in business, says bridging the digital divide will help the field move forward

— Social entreprenurs have already made great achievements locally, technology will enable knowledge to spread.

Martin re-iterates his belief that social entrepreneurship has lots of untapped potential.

— We haven’t yet seen the full force of the human and capital resources, Martin said, agreeing with the rest of the panel that when properly organized and equipped with the right scaling tools, social entrepreneurs will make the next major leap.