Social Challenges and the Quest for Sustainability

Addressing Societal Needs and Challenges
Social Innovation


The aim of this training session is to deliver knowledge and understanding about sustainable development and its direct relationship with the social challenges and the social enterprises respectively. The participants in this training session, should understand that the non-profit sector and non-profit enterprises are playing an important role in the sustainable development, through their impact on the society and the way they address societal needs and challenges.


  1. Key question
  2. Key words
  3. Substantive part/information
  4. Activities for the reader(s)
  5. Multiple-choice self-assessment test
  6. Links to self-study resources
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Key question

  • Why is sustainable development associated with the non-profit sector?
  • How Social Challenges affect the sustainability of the non-profit sector?

Key words (of the chapter)

  • Social challenges
  • Sustainability

Substantive part/information

Sustainability refers to a process or management system that creates a viable business, while providing social services through environmental protection and maintenance.

Sustainability can be defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The term “sustainability,” when applied institutionally within the social enterprise, is the development of a process or management system that helps to create a financially viable business which provides a high quality of social services while respecting the need to sustain natural resources and protect the environment. Sustainable projects are those that result from an enterprise’s commitment to environmental, social and economic benefit, or the “triple bottom line.”.

Activities for the reader(s)

Activity 1: Description

1. Write one word on 30 sheets of paper (it is recommended that the number of sheets is two times more than the number of participants).

Examples of words and expressions related to Sustainability:

Social Environmental Economic
Reverse migration Global warming Hybrid cars
Green peace Desertification Fair Trade
Hollywood Eco-villages Copper mining
Terrorism Natural resources Coca-Cola
Democracy Organic farming Wall-street
Community Carbon foot-print Supermarket
Youth Ocean Shopping mall
Education Biodiversity Bank
Family Extinction Government
Religion Renewable energy Social entrepreneurship

2. Each participant draws 2 sheets of paper.

3. Participants are given instructions that all the words in their hands are elements of three different fields. Their first task is to exchange words among them so at the end each participant has in his/her hands two words from one field field.

4. Form three groups according to relationship/connection of the words in your hands where each group will have one field– three groups; three fields”.

5. After the three groups are formed each group should discuss, decide and give a TITLE for the field related to the words they have.

6. After the groups are ready with the titles, each group will present the title and all the words they have.

7. Next step is to distribute the words in three circles (around each group title of the field) according to how close and connected are the words from each field to others. In the circle the words that are less related to other fields stay distant and the ones which are related are placed close to the other field that is connected with (see pictures X).

8. After the circles are ready, trainers ask participants to explain distribution of the words in the circle and especially the ones that are linked to the other circles and what the link between the different fields is.

9. Afterwards, the discussion is opened about the existence of a relationship among the fields and what will happen if we develop one and neglect another field.

10. After the discussion, trainers stick the titles of the fields chosen by the groups to previously prepared flip chart with the three pillars of sustainable development (each title is related to one of the pillars – Environmental, Economic and Social) and present the definition and concept of Sustainable development. (see “Information part”).

Based on the information given above, discuss the following questions:

  • Why the non-profit sector is important for the sustainability?
  • How the non-profit can be negatively affected without considering economic and environmental impacts?

Multiple-choice self-assessment test

Q1. What should consider an enterprise of a profit sector?

a. Environment
b. Economy
c. Society
d. All above

Q2. Social challenges affect which other sectors? (More than one answer)

a. Economic sector
b. Enviromental sector
c. Cultural sector
d. Technology sector

Q3. Non-profit sector can cooperate with other sectors?

a. Yes, only with environmental sector
b. Yes, with environmental and economic sector
c. Yes, only with economic
d. No, only with other non-profit sector

Q4. Sustainability has…?

a. only individual applicability
b. only institutional applicability
c. both individual and institutional applicability
d. only social applicability

Q5. Why we do care about sustainability?

a. To deal with unemployment
b. Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
c. To help people with disabilities
d.To deal with Migration

Links to self-study resources


It is critical in today’s complex, interconnected world that non-profit enterprises understand, identify and manage their social, environmental and economic impacts. Sustainability is about enabling Charities, Foundations, Social Welfare Organizations, Community Groups and other social enterprises, to incorporate the creation of social and environmental, as well as economic value into their core strategy and operations. This will lower the business risks, improve their opportunities whilst enhancing long-term social and environmental sustainability.


World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p.43.

Clough, G.W., J. Chameau, and C. Carmichael. “Sustainability and the University.” The Presidency. Winter 2006, pp. 30-40.

Hignite, K. “Will Sustainability Take Root?” Business Officer. April 2006, pp. 12-22.