Longtermism vs. Short-Termism: The Clash of Perspectives in Social Entrepreneurship

In the realm of social entrepreneurship, two distinct ideologies have emerged, each advocating different approaches to addressing societal challenges. Longtermism and short-termism represent opposing viewpoints on how to achieve lasting impact and sustainable change. While both perspectives have their merits, the clash between them highlights a fundamental debate within the social entrepreneurship community.

Longtermism in social entrepreneurship refers to an approach focused on creating systemic, lasting solutions to complex social issues. Advocates of longtermism prioritise building strong foundations, establishing enduring partnerships, and fostering sustainable practices that can withstand the test of time. They believe that by investing in long-term solutions, social entrepreneurs can create a more significant and sustainable impact on society.

On the other hand, short-termism is characterised by an emphasis on immediate results and rapid problem-solving. Supporters of this approach believe that tangible and measurable outcomes should be achieved quickly to validate the effectiveness of their interventions. Short-termism often aims to address urgent needs and pressing challenges with immediate, although often temporary solutions.

The clash between longtermism and short-termism arises from their contrasting beliefs on how to achieve the most effective social change. Longtermism advocates argue that addressing root causes and systemic issues is essential for meaningful impact. They caution against temporary “band-aid” solutions that may not lead to sustainable change in the long run. However, critics of longtermism worry that the slow pace of progress may hinder immediate relief for those in dire need.

On this side of the argument, short-termism’s proponents contend that taking swift action and providing immediate assistance can alleviate suffering in the here and now. They argue that focusing too much on long-term solutions may overlook pressing needs that require urgent attention. However, short-termism critics fear that without a deeper understanding of the root causes, interventions may lack effectiveness and could perpetuate the cycle of dependency.

While both longtermism and short-termism have their advantages and drawbacks, finding a balance between these perspectives is crucial in effective social entrepreneurship. Achieving lasting impact requires understanding the complexity of social challenges and recognizing that sustainable change may not happen overnight.

Social entrepreneurs should combine short-term interventions to address immediate needs with a long-term vision that tackles the root causes of the problems they seek to solve. Building partnerships with governments, communities, and other stakeholders can help create enduring solutions that have broader support and can withstand the test of time.

Moreover, adopting an iterative and learning-focused approach allows social entrepreneurs to adapt and refine their strategies over time, maximising their impact and avoiding the pitfalls of rigid adherence to either perspective. 


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Milano, G. (n.d.). Council Post: Why Business Is About Both The Short-Term And The Long-Term. [online] Forbes. Available at: [Accessed 16 July. 2023].

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