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Sally Osberg, CEO of Skoll Foundation, on social entrepreneurship

Sometimes called the father of microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, meets with women entrepreneurs in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Skoll archive)

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we talk with Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg about the buzz phrase ‘social entrepreneurship’ and the related concept of social enterprise. The Skoll Foundation focuses its philanthropy on this strategy for making the world a better place, which it defines succinctly as “supporting innovators pioneering scalable solutions to global challenges.” Okay, but what’s that really mean and how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? There is, as Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson notes, a history of people just trying to sell their stuff while claiming they are doing it to help the poor (see TOMS Shoes).

Sally Osberg

Sally Osberg

Osberg, who will be the keynote speaker at Seattle’s upcoming Global Washington conference, deftly avoids Paulson’s attempt to have her identify some phonies in the social enterprise universe. But Osberg and co-author Roger Martin, a leading business innovator and academic, have published a new book Getting Beyond Better, that sets forth some useful criteria for helping the rest of us identify effective social entrepreneurship – as distinguished from social enterprise, social advocacy, social service or other means to make progress against some of the world’s biggest and seemingly intractable problems.

As always, Tom and Gabe Spitzer, our collaborating producer at KPLU, highlight some of the bigger – or more interesting – stories of the week beginning with the end of the end of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. That is, just one day after the world celebrated the last known Ebola case in the region, in Guinea, we learn of new cases popping up in Liberia. Such is the nature of infectious disease. Tom also notes a new (and somewhat predictable) critique of the World Health Organization’s tardy response to the outbreak.

Tom and Gabe also discuss a study that discovered that poor people actually spend money wisely when given money instead of things. And giving them cash does not make them lazy. The reason for doing the study is the still-widely-held belief, apparently a misconception, that the poor are irresponsible in their spending habits. We also draw attention again to a different refugee crisis, in the tiny East African nation of Burundi. Everyone knows about what happened in Rwanda in the mid-1990s. Few know the same thing happened in neighboring Burundi, and some fear the current instability (likely more political than ethnic this time) could erupt in more violence.

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About Author

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan is Humanosphere's social media manager and podcast producer. A University of Washington graduate in journalism and dance, Imana's interests include underrepresented communities, the intersection between politics and culture, global-local issues and the arts. She can be reached at @imanafg on Twitter or