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  • Ann Porter

Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs are people who build social ventures to address inequalities and disadvantage in society by employing entrepreneurial behaviours from commerce. Fuel for Innovation believes that innovation is the tool of entrepreneurs and that innovation will happen faster and differently in healthcare organisations if the energy, skills and values of talented social entrepreneurs are directed toward innovation challenges and healthcare priorities.

Social entrepreneurs are a major unexploited resource in the struggle to deliver innovative healthcare. Their ability to diagnose opportunity and to create innovative, sustainable enterprises or service improvements is a vital asset for thriving public services. Social entrepreneurs seemingly create ‘something out of nothing’ and improve returns on investment.


The need to raise public sector productivity in the face of demographic, social, environmental and particularly economic challenges is now vitally important. Just as there was an explosion of health related entrepreneurial activity in Victorian times in response to epidemics and poor living conditions, we now need a new wave of entrepreneurialism in response to the present day epidemics of long term conditions, an ageing population and unhealthy life style choices. In the current economic recession, we need approaches to innovation that maximise returns on existing investment and challenge orthodox thinking. Public service organisations are full of talented people with great ideas for change. If we equip these people with the skills and knowledge to act as social entrepreneurs, then innovation will happen and will happen quickly and economically. Throughout history, innovation has always been the tool of individual entrepreneurs.


Within any large, complex organisation that has been successful over a period of time, people with ideas for change can encounter many barriers to innovation. This can be frustrating and demoralising. Fuel for Innovation gives front line public service professionals the opportunity to voice these frustrations and offers practical advice on navigating a way around these barriers- based on a realistic understanding of how public service organisations actually work.

Fuel for Innovation takes participants through the entrepreneurial process from the moment an insight hits (‘Wouldn’t it be good if...’; ‘Why do we do it this way...’; ‘I wish we could...’) through to the formulation of a great, viable idea and then on to the development of a sustainable venture or service improvement that has real impact and makes a difference. The process moves from INSIGHT to IDEA to IMPACT. An idea only becomes an innovation when it can demonstrate impact.


Fuel for Innovation aims to debunk the mythology surrounding entrepreneurship and to explain that the mix of thinking styles, attributes, knowledge and skills that enable an individual to be an effective social entrepreneur in public service can be acquired by anyone with the drive, passion and determination to make a difference. Fuel for Innovation’s methods are based on an informed understanding of the pressures and constraints faced by public service leaders. A key idea is that business processes for day to day operational management do not support innovation where ‘green housing’ of a new idea is required. Innovation requires a different business environment and the challenge is to navigate successfully between two different worlds: ‘Planet Operational Management’ and ‘Planet Innovation’. Innovation is often quashed inadvertently by attempts to manage it within existing business processes. The rules for innovation are different.

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