“Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.” ~ Florence Nightingale
It varies for each of us. As we age… as we become more aware… as we gain clarity and our hearts become emboldened, we shift from thinking and dreaming to taking action on issues that are of value. And the number of us who are discovering the world of social entrepreneurship is growing.
Florence Nightingale may have been a pioneer in this field. Regarded as the founder of modern nursing, she was an early believer in the power of someone with a good idea who chose to tackle not just a social problem, but also the forces that cause such problems.
Having coined the term “social entrepreneur” in the 1980’s, Bill Drayton saw the value in collaborative entrepreneurship. Today he has infected many with his vision of a society where everyone is a change-maker; where everyone knows they can fix the issues at hand instead of merely pointing to them.
Back in October I had a guest (Dr. Bob Grassberger) on the Awakening to Awareness Radio Show. Much of what Bob and I discussed was the emerging field of Encore Entrepreneurs, a rapidly growing cohort among recent retirees. We briefly touched upon the world of Social Entrepreneurship. But the latter is happening! Interest in the movement is catching on like wildfire with Baby Boomers.
So what is it? Social entrepreneurship is an innovative blend of social action and entrepreneurial strategies. They can take the form of for-profit businesses dedicated to social change. Others are non-profit organizations paying their own way with income-earning enterprises. And some are (retired!) professionals in (recent) private practice who offer their services pro bono to people in need.
As a Coach, I’ve championed and challenged Social Entrepreneurs to new heights of learning and achievement. I’ve worked with them to see and tap their vision, wisdom, and potential, especially in early stages of their ventures. Knowing that these people are helping others change the ways they sustain their lives and communities, and how they are using their social skills to better humanity is incredibly fulfilling collaboration.
Social entrepreneurs achieve the seemingly impossible every day. If you are interested in ‘playing,’ here are three early considerations:
- Don’t go big. Many social entrepreneurs often believe “going national” classifies their project as “big league.” Yet having minimal presence and surface impact across many states is ineffective. Deep impact in one area is far more impressive, and impactful.
- Know the need. Classic questions: Who is your market? What void is your product or service filling? Products for the poor must not only satisfy a material need but also an emotional or psychological one. Study and understand the needs of the constituency you intend to serve, first.
- Recognize your own abilities. Know your capabilities; ask yourself what you can offer and what actually lies within reach. Dream big but not at the cost of being realistic. These are fundamental acknowledgments when deciding how you are going to implement/execute and accomplish your goal.