â€œOne of the most intriguing papers I came across in my research,â€? David Bornstein writes in How to Change the World, â€œcontrasted the behavior of â€˜highly successfulâ€™ and â€˜averageâ€™ entrepreneurs and found that the most successful entrepreneurs were not necessarily more confident, persistent, or knowledgeable. The key differences had more to do with the quality of their motivation.â€? According to Bornstein, motivated entrepreneurs exercise more foresight, do better and more planning, and search and exploit more opportunities. They seek long-term gains over short-term profits, and their business is their passion.
It makes plenty of sense, but as Bornstein lays out in chapter 18, a good entrepreneur needs more than drive and energy. After all, as my mother used to tell me, many prison inmates are also goal-oriented and motivated. For Bornstein, the six interrelated qualities that successful social entrepreneurs have in common include:
*Willingness to Self-Correct: Firms â€“ and especially those rapidly growing firms in the social sector â€“ need to be adaptive to their environments. In todayâ€™s rapidly advancing technological and globalized business culture, financial, operational, and external conditions can change in seconds. Leaders who can keep up are the ones who will benefit; those who canâ€™t stay fit and relevant will never be effective.
*Willingness to Share Credit: Sharing success with others is not simply a way to enlist more help or garner larger contributions; for social entrepreneurs, argues Bornstein, it should come from inborn humility and strength. This selfless appreciation is a true measure of character.
*Willingness to Break Free of Established Structures: Think Jeroo Billimoria, Veronica Khosa, and Vera Cordeiro. Oftentimes, entrepreneurship is the child of rigid, stifling structures that act as barriers to change. This innovative approach to business or social change defines the entrepreneurial field.
*Willingness to Cross Disciplinary Boundaries: Identify all the stakeholders in your firm before you do anything else, Bill Drayton once cautioned. Work across functional boundaries to ensure you have the complete support and interest of your businessâ€™ stakeholders. Then, make them all NEED your firm.
*Willingness to Work Quietly: These people do not crave recognition or fame or wealth; they want â€“ rather, they need â€“ change. It is this idea that is at the core of the motivational complex of entrepreneurs â€“ the absolute need to do something. As Jean Monnet once noted, ambitious people fall into two groups: those who want to â€œbe someoneâ€? and those who need to â€œdo something.â€?
*Strong Ethical Impetus: This is what really separates the traditional entrepreneur from the social entrepreneur, and Bornstein says it can be summed up in one question: â€œDoes the entrepreneur dream of building the worldâ€™s greatest running-shoe company or vaccinating all the worldâ€™s children?â€?
David Bornsteinâ€™s case study of Javed Abidi, a spirited defender and activist for advancing the rights and well-being of disabled people in India, leaves off at the end of 2002. Curious to see what he has done for the past three years, I further researched Abidiâ€™s case and compiled a number of articles, listed below:
Abidiâ€™s Ashoka profile: â€œJaved Abidi is working to make legislative rights and economic opportunities a reality for the disabled in India. He is organizing disability groups across thematic, geographic, and language barriers to set up an informed national lobbyâ€¦â€?
The National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People : â€œOur mandate: Encourage the employment of disabled people; Increase public awareness on disability issues; Empower disabled people through appropriate legislation; Equip disabled people with educational opportunities; Ensure easy and convenient access to all public placesâ€¦â€?
On Abidiâ€™s run for a parliamentary seat in 2004: â€œ â€˜We want to create a space for disabled people within the political system and use it to generate awareness about disability,â€™ Mr. Abidi told The Hindu as he wheeled himself from one meeting to another soliciting support for the causeâ€¦â€?
What happens when you get into politics: â€œDisabled rights activist and independent candidate from New Delhi Lok Sabha seat Javed Abidi today demanded countermanding of polls thereâ€¦â€?
On a 2004 Indian Supreme Court decision to make ramps mandatory for polling stations: â€œThe Supreme Court Monday directed that wooden ramps be provided at polling centres across the country to enable disabled voters exercise their franchiseâ€¦â€?
More problems with the Delhi police: â€œIt is a mockery of capability of the police department. Even the chief minister and the chief secretary of the state did not help us stage the show. Here authorities do not help people who fight for a good cause,â€? Abidi said.â€?
In their textbook Strategic Entrepreneurial Growth, Donald Kuratko and Harold Welsch argue that corporate entrepreneurship – in whatever form it takes – has become a bedrock in modern management. Whether to inspire new products and processes to avoid market stagnation or to retain innovative employees, organizational entrepreneurship – that is, “intrapreneurship” – can have big payoffs to firms committed to the idea in both theory and practice (think 3M).
But “[i]f an organization’s atmosphere does not support innovative efforts,” Kuratko and Welsch warn, “then intrapreneuring (in any form) will probably not occur.” Despite the best wishes of many corporate managers, entrepreneurial workers do not bloom from static work flows and routine tasks. For Kuratko and Welsch, the elements of a corporate intrapreneurship strategy include four major ideas:
1. Developing the vision: Management must define and share, with employee input, the vision of innovation they wish to inspire.
2. Encouraging Innovation: To facilitate entrepreneurial thinking, organizations must tolerate failure, support champions, ensure management support, keep divisions small, and share the rewards for successful ideas.
3. Forming Venture Teams: Teams charged with creating radical new innovations are organized, supported, and given substantial organizational leverage in their tasks.
4. Structuring for an Intrapreneurial Climate: Organizations must nurture information-sharing activities, open resources to employee use, and encourage risk-taking activity.
From a social entrepreneur’s standpoint, David Bornstein details four similar practices that he identifies in innovative organizations” Using anecdotes from his case studies throughout How to Change the World, Bornstein argues managers must implement the following four practices to stimulate organizational entrepreneurship:
1. Institutionalize Listening: The best, most constructive input for both social and traditional entrepreneurs is from the people they serve and their employees. Childline in India, for example, has been subject to repeated changes because of new advice and recommendations. Consequently, there must be an organizationally-defined way for a business to listen.
2. Pay Attention to the Exceptional: Unexpected successes need to be investigated by the intrapreneurial firm to uncover insights that lead to organizational innovation. Part of this practice, as the success of the Grameen Bank shows, is challenging norms and expectations.
3. Design Real Solutions for Real People: Will people use my service or product? How often will they use it and at what cost? Whose consent will I need to develop this organization? What legal or political obstacles must I address? How can I encourage employee and customer feedback to stimulate new ideas or improvements? These are the questions stirring in the organizational mind of an innovative business.
4. Focus on the Human Qualities: Oftentimes, the most innovative, creative intrapreneurs are not those with the highest ACT scores or the most degrees next to their names. Organizations must concentrate on the undefinables – that is, ethics, flexibility, empathy, etc. There are no numerical measures for these qualities.
Without question, there is no single answer to how to inspire intrapreneurship in social or traditional businesses. But both Bornstein and Strategic Entrepreneurial Growth address the keys to corporate entrepreneurship: Escape static, routine structures and processes; foster a culture that encourages customer and employee participation in business processes; and never fear – moreover, know when to – change.
When Veronica Khosa launched Tateni, a South African organization that serves jointly as a training school for nurses and caretakers and as a home care service for terminally ill South Africans, she faced an unusual problem from the population she was trying to serve: social resistance. Typically, social entrepreneurs and their larger citizen groups are greeted by needy peoples, praised and endorsed. Most of the struggling of social entrepreneurs is against government regulations, financials, and the very breadth of their organizational focus.
Khosa certainly faced all of the above challenges. But as a female nurse seeking to educate an ignorant population on the causes, effects, and challenges of HIV-AIDS, Khosa was not merely seeking to tackle a nagging social problem in a deeply impoverished nation – she was taking on ingrained social norms and stigmas. Indeed, she still is.
For most Africans, AIDS is not a disease in the normal sense. Many Africans believe AIDS is brought on by evil spirits; others think AIDS is a disease that affects only whites, one that infects and plagues only gays in the Western populations. When Khosa began Tateni, one of her greatest challenges was to educate the local South African population about HIV-AIDS. Before AIDS patients would find treatment, they would have to admit to their infection to themselves and to others. Obviously, in a country that stigmatizes and discriminates against those with AIDS, Khosa’s task is an unavoidable cornerstone of any anti-AIDS program on the African continent.
One of the first steps in breaking through this social barrier, argues Khosa, is getting family members to accept their HIV-infected siblings, parents or children. David Bornstein recounts instances when Tateni workers would watch as AIDS-infected South Africans would die from thirst and starvation in their own homes, locked in by family members. “His wife left for work without giving him food,” one Tateni worker said of a bed-ridden AIDS patient. “She’s rejecting him.”
So, like many social entrepreneurs whose time and resources are stretched by demand and distances, Khosa made it one of her primary missions to encourage and teach families and communities to learn how to treat AIDS sufferers on their own. By giving instruction to poor Africans on diet, basic medical care, and fundamental information about HIV-AIDS, Tateni sought to eliminate the AIDS stigma and give the people most affected by the epidemic the tools to fight it.
And that, ultimately, is precisely what social entrepreneurship is all about.
Jacob Schramm’s work with inner-city high school students is a validation of the latent potential of underprivileged youth. His involvement with young people is precisely the kind of work I would love to participate in. Further, his experiences offer helpful advice for me as I pour over the development of a like-minded organization as College Summit.
Among the more notable lessons from chapters thirteen and fourteen:
*Helping students succeed academically in high school is not the cure-all for getting them into college. Unguided by parents or counselors, students need assistance applying to and adjusting to college.
*Young people tend to see one another as critics, as social competitors. Getting students to recognize their familial, economic, and social similarities is vital to breaking down these barriers. Once they see they are all struggling with the same problems, they become sympathetic coaches and motivators.
*Colleges can’t always recognize high-potential students from poor communities. Once a student is released from the nagging problems of his environment (gangs, drugs, family problems, social pressures, etc.), however, he may become a truly capable learner.
*The stakeholders in educating young people are spread across all society, which makes it unreasonable to expect any one stakeholder to do what it takes to make underprivileged students get the help they need to succeed. Organizations that aim to provide assistance to these youth need to coordinate across all the stakeholders, including high schools, government social service agencies, neighborhoods, and so on.
*When students see their friends or role models getting prepared for and serious about their future education, they will feel more pressure to do the same. “In a school like this,” said Patricia Ludwig, a high school principal in Denver, Colorado, “the only achievement models kids have to identify with are the varsity athletes. The charismatic, respected leaders in school need to be the kids who are going to college.”
*Building an organization like College Summit requires champions in every city it spreads to. Further, College Summit needed to find cities that had a concentration of high schools, businesses, and colleges that would jointly endorse the organization. As David Bornstein goes into more detail in chapter fourteen, Ashoka ran into its own organizational predicaments when it tried to expand into nations (e.g., much of Africa and post-communist Eastern Europe) that were not ripe for social entrepreneurs or their work. Ashoka was forced to redevelop its expansion plans and strategic goals. Analogously, College Summit must identify and carefully plan and prepare for its expansion before committing to new operations.
*Providing financial guidance to students isn’t enough to get them into college and keep them there. Though early financial planning can make parents invested in their children’s education and pressure others to get serious about college, students need other forms of help as well (with, for example, resume building or application writing).
With these lessons in mind, I need to carefully mull over my own nonprofit idea.
I am working with a teacher at Edison High School to contact staff involved with helping students prepare for college. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of financial advice for students planning to go to college -- especially not in the way I'm thinking. Right now, the most help students enjoy is having a packet of scholarships and financial aid applications thrown at them. Parents are not involved. There is no investment in the project. Few kids know about it.
I intend to know by the end of the semester whether I will be starting this organization. I can use the winter break to do some networking and build a foothold at Edison High School, which will be my guinea pig. If things go well, I will bring it to other schools in the area. With the Internet and connections with students across the country, I could potentially build a nation-wide network of financially-literate adults who want to help kids plan and prepare financially for a tertiary education.
But I say again: Do I have it in me?
In the late 1980s, after interviewing hundreds of social entrepreneurs and spending years pulling Ashoka through its start-up stages, Bill Drayton began to appreciate a foundation beneath the work of all Ashoka’s recruits and successful social entrepreneurs. Though each social entrepreneur has different goals, methods, and limitations, Drayton recognized a set of common strategies used by every cash-strapped, big-hearted, innovative individual he interviewed.
According to David Bornstein, there are seven common threads that run through most social entrepreneurs’ practices (where applicable):
*Putting children in charge
*Enlisting “barefoot” professionals
*Designing new legal frameworks for environmental reform
*Helping small producers capture greater profits
*Linking economic development and environmental protection
*Unleashing resources in the community you are serving
*Linking the citizen, government, and business sectors for comprehensive solutions
On the surface, each strategy is distinct from the others, but they all serve a single underlying theme – a theme that is vastly dissimilar from the traditional methods of social change. In the past, aid and charity work was a top-down, often wasteful process infamous for inefficiency and corruption. For years, bureaucratic structures entrusted with poverty relief or education (or any number of other social issues) have been plagued by scandals and popular criticism (think oil-for-food). Social improvement, though also championed by a number of nonprofit grassroots citizens movements as well, has traditionally been and (in many cases) still is a top-down process.
Social entrepreneurship is radically different. From Fabio Rosa, to Vera Cordeiro, to Jeroo Billimoria, social entrepreneurs believe the best way to get results is to make social change a bottom-up process – one that puts the people most affected by a situation in charge. The people most familiar with a problem – that is, the ones with the most to gain or lose – should lead the organizations charged with promoting long-term developments. So it should be rural Brazilians in charge of improving their electrical systems, and Indians in charge of their own child services, not ‘experts’ or bureaucrats hundreds of miles away.
At its heart, social entrepreneurship is about empowerment. It’s about giving people the resources they need (financial, human, or organizational) to make the change they want. And the benefits are monumental. Someone truly passionate about a cause has a greater sense of ownership and that much more resolve to see his project to its conclusion. A social entrepreneur lives by flexibility, passion, and an intimate knowledge of his work. They know they must compromise, bring every stakeholder they can into their ambitions, and exercise unparalleled creativity to make ends meet and be truly effective.
Indeed, the extreme scope and breadth of social entrepreneurship around the world suggests that the greatest hope for third-world peoples may no longer be prime ministers or chancellors, but instead in the spirit of incorruptible individuals who will not stop until they change the world. Good-bye President Bush, Secretary General Annan, and Prime Minister Blair; hello Jacob Schramm, James Grant, and Javed Abidi.
Social entrepreneurs are innately torn people. They use traditional business practices to fuel change that was once home only to philanthropic work. They are pulled between an instinct to help and the desire to make others independent. As Vera Cordeiro can attest, they want to take on the world, but know they must focus their efforts.
As the person behind the post-hospitalization care center Renascer, Cordeiro was driven from the inception of her organization to change how Brazil’s entire health care system operates. Plagued by recidivism, children would be treated, released, and almost immediately (because of their squalid living conditions and poor diet) re-hospitalized. It was a vicious cycle that was responsible for lives of certainly millions of Brazilian youth.
Recognized as one of Brazil’s “women of the year” in 2001, Cordeiro did in fact initiate a transformation in how children are cared for after they leave the hospital. “Cordeiro frequently has to remind herself that Renascer does not exist to solve all of Brazil’s woes,” David Bornstein writes, “Its job is to ensure that vulnerable children treated at Hospital da Lagoa truly benefit from the medical care they receive and, as far as possible, stay healthy outside the hospital.”
Social entrepreneurs almost unanimously suffer from the same temptation – namely, to try to take on more social causes, more cases, and more challenges than they are capable of. When a new consultant asked Cordeiro how she would choose among 20 needy families if she only had space for ten, she replied, “Since the beginning when we had no money and leaky roof, our rule was to bring in all 20 families. Something has always allowed us to grow.”
There is certainly something redeeming about the social entrepreneur’s idealized vision of a truly better world. But any business that overextends itself risks the quality of its service, which, for most agencies striving for social change, actually means inadequate attention to the most desperately impoverished people on the planet. Which is better – giving more specialized attention to a few people, or giving less time to a broader customer base?
Fortunately, with the help of Ashoka and management consulting services, Vera Cordeiro could get the best of both sides. The number of children “at risk” after being discharged from Renascer dropped from 42 percent to ten percent, and their families’ average incomes have increased by 58 percent. Perhaps even more importantly, her organization has spawned a number of agencies modeled after Renascer across Brazil. More children are getting the care they need, and fewer are in need of re-hospitalization.
With the right resources in the right circumstances, Cordeiro was able to push her dream closer to fruition. “Sometimes a person has success because that person continues fighting,” she said. “I think if I have some value it is that I continue fighting.”
“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every entrepreneur needs to pursue his own course as he forms, shapes, and manages the implementation of his ideas. Every entrepreneur – social or traditional – has his own management style, his own vision and mission, his own means for raising and maintaining capital. And even the “best” entrepreneur, just as Emerson’s quotation suggests, must reshape both his methods and his destination after he sets sail.
As fatuous as suggesting every entrepreneur is the same might be, it would be equally ridiculous to claim they are all different. Every entrepreneur may have a different vision, a unique mission, and a new way for meeting his goals, but they each have a strong vision, a powerful mission, and well-devised methods.
This was Bill Drayton’s premise when he developed his four-criteria evaluation for social entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneur supported by Ashoka must meet strict standards for:
1) creativity (in both problem-solving and goal-setting),
2) entrepreneurial quality,
3) social impact of their idea (in depth and breadth), and,
4) ethical fiber.
“If you were in a dangerous situation,” Drayton explained his moral expectations of Fellows to evaluation panelists, “would you be totally at ease if this person was with you?”
Though Ashoka is deeply concerned with the overall impact of social ideas and the ability of social entrepreneurs to use original thinking, Drayton explained that entrepreneurial quality is the foremost measure of social entrepreneurs. Recruits have to be realistic, free from ideologies and mental frameworks. They need to be able to answer the difficult “how-to” questions; they need to prove they have worked through scenarios and thought in depth about their work.
In short, can recruits prove they have made their idea their passion? “Entrepreneurs have in their heads the vision of how society will be different when their idea is at work, and they can’t stop until that idea is not only at work in one place, but is at work across the whole society.” “Are they possessed, really possessed by an idea?” Drayton asked.
Call it, “OCD entrepreneurship.”
One of the most notable underlying themes of David Bornstein’s book, How to Change the World, is the social entrepreneur’s oft-strained relationship with national governments. Fabio Rosa struggled with the Brazilian government over rural electrification policies for decades. Florence Nightingale was snubbed repeatedly by the British government before her talents were realized and used in the Crimean War. More recently, Jeroo Billimoria encountered road block after road block in dealing with different branches of the Indian government before she was successful in creating a national child service hotline.
Erzebet Szekeres, the Hungarian founder and operator of a renowned assisted living home for the disabled, also knows something about mixing her vision with government regulations. In her earliest years, when Hungary was still dominated by the Soviet Union, Szekeres was repulsed by government services available for disabled people. She joined the National Association for the Disabled, aiming to inspire communist politicos to improve health care and housing services for the disabled. But as David Bornstein appropriately writes, “A totalitarian government is not easily lobbied.”
Szekeres went on to exploit new, liberalized policies instituted in the spirit of glasnost and perestroika throughout the 1980s, eventually forming a small cooperative (called “Alliance”) to assist “moderately disabled youth.” But the bureaucracy, the paperwork, the rules were still stifling to Szekeres’ work. Having conceived the cooperative initially in 1982, it wasn’t until 1989 – after “applications, applications, applications, layers and layers of applications” – that Alliance received its first significant sum of money from the Hungarian Ministry of Welfare.
Eventually, as she grew her cooperative and expanded her firm’s mission, Szekeres would be recognized by Hungary’s president for her work with the disabled. But that wasn’t until the European Union demanded the Hungarian government improve its health services. In other words, only when Hungary had a substantial interest in health care policies did the government come to fawn over Szekeres remarkable work.
The message? National and state governments can be powerful allies or powerful enemies. The key for the social entrepreneur is to give his local government a reason to support his work (through lobbying, larger national interest, etc.) early and often. Realistically, until political leaders are willing to accept original approaches to social problems, the work of social entrepreneurs will always be in jeopardy.