Some of the most innovative thinkers in the world are putting their skills to use, bringing improvements to people and places that desperately need it.

So what exactly is a social enterprise? It’s simply an endeavor that aims to improve the world and solve a complex problem. Whether it be a nonprofit, business, or other entity, social enterprises use creative ideas to change lives and better the environment. The following are 10 innovative social enterprises that will inspire you to do good.

1. Groundswell

Groundswell is an enterprise that encourages consumers to use their power for good. They address the rising cost of necessary expenses, like energy, and the falling costs of luxury items, like iPods. Through what Groundswellers call “Civic Consumption,” consumers can use their money to support responsible businesses, save money, and promote local wealth. They do this by bringing people and organizations together for purchases, making things like renewable energy cheaper and accessible to more families. Help the environment and help yourself? Win-win.

2. Compreneurship

Compreneurship unites students and disadvantaged people to develop and execute entrepreneurial projects. In a recent project, students studying design, journalism, and business joined up with local homeless people to create and distribute an original newspaper. Disadvantaged street vendors who distributed the papers earned a whopping 150,000 euros. Basically, Compreneurship puts student projects to valuable, real-life use.

3. Arsenic Absorbent

Professor and Fulbright-Nehru scholar Arup SenGupta is researching his way to a solution for clean, safe drinking water around the world. if you don’t think arsenic poisoning is a serious problem anymore, consider the 140 million people who’ve been affected by it. From India to the US, eight countries have experienced reduced rates of arsenic poisoning since SenGupta developed the first reusable arsenic absorbent.

4. Biolite

Biolite is a start-up that uses thermoelectric technology to make wood-burning stoves clean and safe. Amazingly, the mini stoves also charge cell phones and LED lights. Biolite has worked to create efficient energy with clients like Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett Packard, and Nike. These compact, affordable stoves make cooking easier- not only for frequent campers, but for families in 3rd world countries as well.

5. TCK Learning Centre

The TCK Learning Centre offers low-cost education to low-income migrant workers in Hong Kong. The Centre offers English, technology, and reading courses for young maids and others migrant workers that have a desire to learn and improve their career opportunities. They also offer a variety of workshops on topics like music, bookkeeping, and video editing to students who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

6. Voidstarter

Voidstarter is an enterprise that converts vacant housing units in Dublin into short-term learning centers and entrepreneur labs. Instead of going to waste as usual, these unoccupied units are used to provide shelter for the homeless, give new entrepreneurs a place to get started, and teach unemployed people new skills. Voidstarter is essentially utilizing wasted space to help those in need generate wealth and gain independence.

7. The Jamble

The Jamble connects collaborators who want to participate in projects or make their ideas a reality. This much-needed online community is perfect for those with start-up ideas who need collaborators with various sets of expertise beyond their own. The Jamble allows users to search for projects or collaborators, enabling brilliant ideas to take shape in the real world.

8. Swipes for the Homeless

Swipes for the Homeless is an organization founded by college students who wanted to give back to their community. Now, Swipes has grown to include multiple US colleges including Berkley, UCLA, and Northwestern University. Students have the opportunity to donate their leftover meal plan points to local homeless people. Since its inception, Swipes has donated 330,000 pounds of food.

9. Task Squad

Task Squad has created a novel incentive to volunteer: money. Volunteers ages 18-25 can sign onto Task Squad and search for temporary work from organizations and start-ups who post job assignments. Not only does the service reward and encourage volunteering, it provides quality work experience and resume builders for young people who need it.

10. Terracycle

Terracycle is a company that is changing the future of recycling, making it easier to recycle difficult items like chip bags, toothbrushes, and drink pouches. They use Brigades, or collection programs, to collect different kinds of waste. Customers can ship waste directly to the company and gain credits, which can be redeemed for cash or directed towards the nonprofit of their choice.

Do any of these innovative social enterprise ideas get your brain churning? Head over to the EntrepreneursToolkit and find out how you can start your own enterprise and become part of a global solution.

Featured photo credit: the recruiter’s lounge via therecruiterslounge.com

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