Social entrepreneurship can lift communities before, during and after severe weather events

People and communities impacted by severe weather can benefit from entrepreneurial activities.

patrick murphy 2 streamPatrick J. Murphy, Ph.D.In 2017, the cumulative cost of the 16 separate billion-dollar weather events in the United States was $306.2 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Severe storms can and often do damage homes and businesses, which negatively impacts lives.

Those who are socially purposeful entrepreneurs — people who use startup companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural or environmental issues — find the opportunities in a severe weather situation to be beneficial to communities as they prepare and recover, according to Patrick J. Murphy, Ph.D., Goodrich Endowed Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Our first concern is the safety and well-being of the people and communities affected by storms,” Murphy said. “When communities seek to protect themselves from severe weather or recover from its impact, entrepreneurial activity can play various roles in preparation and rebuilding.”

Entrepreneurial opportunities derive from market or social problems. The economic and social problems generated by storms or natural disasters can in turn give rise to opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures to take action.

“Social entrepreneurs, in particular, tend to view tragedy as opportunity. This type of entrepreneurial mindset can serve a constructive role in society,” said Murphy, an entrepreneurship professor in the UAB Collat School of Business. “Social entrepreneurial behavior tends to be very bold and passionately driven. Lives can be saved; the problems underlying these opportunities are necessity-based rather than desire-based.”

Because storms are largely unprogrammed events, entrepreneurial adaptivity offers communities custom solutions that can complement state and federal responses. And if a storm’s impact exceeds the capacities of state and federal responses, entrepreneurial ventures and individuals in the community can provide needed expertise and resources.

Technology has expanded the ways in which entrepreneurial ventures can help those affected by storms and natural disasters. For example, electronic payments, crowdfunding, and spreading of information and knowledge can help communities and people raise money, rebuild and share valuable information.

“Social entrepreneurs responding to the effects of storms are often fearless and take very bold action,” Murphy said. “When the well-being of a community is at stake, it can bring out the very best in them.”