05/09/2012 09:10 am ET Updated Jul 09, 2012

Doing Development Differently

What is the difference between a social entrepreneur and an entrepreneur original, the entrepreneur-on-the-rocks?

The entrepreneur sees a gap in the market, an unfulfilled need for which the market will pay. The social entrepreneur, on the other hand, operates in areas in which markets have failed. And gaps are all that seem to exist. Finding anything that can work in these environments is a challenge.

However, in my experience, the two types of entrepreneurs share many characteristics. They share the belief that the world should be different and both have the temerity to believe they can change it. They share the characteristics of persistence, doggedness, drive and an eye for innovation.

Innovation is a word that will be on everyone's lips this week at the World Economic Forum on Africa, in Addis Ababa. But no amount of innovation, just for the sake of it, will make a difference. Innovation should be an outcome, rather than an ambition and innovation needs to be coupled with entrepreneurship. What is the gap in the market? Where is the inequity?

Social entrepreneurs can make a difference in making the world more equitable. They identify gaps in equality which, in turn, catalyze innovation. The social entrepreneur identifies, for example, the lack of sanitation or the inability to access finance. He or she considers why these problems prevail and comes up with a solution. In the case of Riders for Health, healthcare cannot be delivered to rural communities in which infrastructure and roads are inadequate and people lack the expertise to maintain vehicles.

It is a profound belief in making a difference, in changing the world for the better that drives innovation and adaptation. Making a difference matters. If development, poverty and inequality are going to be solved, then entrepreneurial characteristics need to be developed.