December 1, 2005

Review of Chapters Twenty and Twenty-One

Whether it’s the emerging vogue of social entrepreneurship in the media, the outgrowth of organizations that support and direct social innovators, or merely the sheer expansion of Ashoka from 8 to 46 countries over the course of little more than a decade, social entrepreneurship has become a powerful force for the disposed of human civilization. As social entrepreneurship grows in popularity, case studies, college courses, new organizations, and fresh research will all address social innovators and their visible role in modern societies – at home and abroad.

As Bornstein wraps up his book, he notes we can expect a number of new trends emerging out of the field of social entrepreneurship. First, as groups like Ashoka mature, new administrative, financial, legal and operational services will come online to serve social innovators. As organizations learn from their mistakes and spread their knowledge to other organizations, a body of knowledge will become available to people looking to make a difference, whether merely in their community, or across the planet. Indeed, one of the benefits of the field is that sharing knowledge and information is beneficial to everyone striving for social change. Competition, in the manner of traditional business, simply does not exist.

One thing that will come of this mass of research and experience is, as Bornstein calls it, blueprint copying. Organizations in similar fields will look for similarities in structure, strategy, and development, and they will share reports and other information with upstart firms in the field. The goal, says Bornstein, is to eliminate (or at least minimize) the invariable missteps new organizations make in their early years. Coupled with the cheap and facile dissemination of information in the global environment, this strategy will meet what Bill Drayton is aiming for in his description of Ashoka: “integrated, decentralized, collegial, and intrapreneurial.?

The future of social entrepreneurship, to be sure, will still be tied to the competitive pressures typically associated with traditional businesses. It has to be. For social entrepreneurs to stay responsible for their work, and for people to know what “charities? are effective and which are not, new firms and analysts will be needed to ensure the citizen sector stays accountable. A business that evaluates large citizen sector firms actually wouldn’t be a bad venture.

Potentially, Bornstein writes, social entrepreneurship will become a realistic career choice in the near future for high school and college students. For this to happen academic institutions, businesses and the government will need to take more interest. Certainly, if the same attention were paid to social innovators as to traditional entrepreneurs, many more young people would be flooding the gates of Ashoka and the Skoll Foundation. Perhaps in twenty years that will be the case.

In the globalized, tiny world of today, there remains little doubt that social entrepreneurs’ adaptability, creativity, and motivation will be the greatest assets for the human tragedies that continue to grip the planet. But if there is one way to sum up the essence of the social entrepreneur, it is as Bornstein does in the penultimate paragraph of his Epilogue:

“As a journalism student, I was taught that news could be defined as ‘destabilizing information.’ If so, the social entrepreneurs are news-worthy. They are destabilizing forces: Wherever they crop up, they pose serious threats to the status quo. And they are particularly important in the post-September 11 world. If there is a perfect antithesis to the terrorist’s impulse, it is the social entrepreneur’s. Social entrepreneurs demonstrate the power of building things instead of destroying them. And they are addressing many of the underlying causes of today’s global instability: lack of education, lack of women’s rights, the destruction of the environment, poverty.?

And that, in a paragraph, is the message of David Bornstein’s book, How to Change the World.

Posted by at 11:09 PM

Review of Chapter Nineteen: Morality Must March with Capacity

James Grant, the head of United Nations’ children’s organization UNICEF from 1980 to 1995, may not be a social entrepreneur in the typical sense. But his energy and optimism, his ability to draw together stakeholders and work with limited resources, his ambition to take on previously unthinkable goals, and his knowledge of his organization, its purpose, and its reputation, all suggest that Grant was an extraordinary social entrepreneur, at minimum, in character.

David Bornstein cites a number of examples to explain the terrific managerial and visionary capacity of the UNICEF leader:

In 1982, the organization launched a groundbreaking initiative that sought to eliminate treatable childhood diseases in the third world. In developing his strategy, Grant identified UNICEF’s competitive advantages and played on those to gain the endorsement of a number of international pediatric organizations. He built up momentum for commonly accepted and achievable causes, Bornstein suggests, before he used his “political? capital to attack larger problems.

Grant looked for support from the true players in third-world nations, not merely figureheads or imposed regimes. Often this meant using unconventional tactics that required quite a bit of gall. Seeking to gain the support of an archbishop in Bogota, for example, Grant “called the Pope and asked him to send a message.?

Grant was always searching for ways to maximize the efficiency, growth, and performance of his staff. Looking for true intrapreneurs, he was the first to assign important tasks not according to seniority, but according to ability. He always focused on the positives in people, examining ways to build up employees and provide encouragement and gain trust. Building human capital, after all, is a key task for any manager.

Perhaps most revealing of Grant was his insistence on simplifying the challenges in his job. He would meet with heads of state and explain to them that inexpensive packets of sugar-salt mixtures could save thousands, even millions of lives. And not only would he play down the scope of his challenges, he would make his mission personal for the leaders he was speaking to. According to Bornstein, he would also build a sense of competition between nations and leaders for who was most responsive to and active in meeting children’s needs.

If there is one person in How to Change the World with whom I am most impressed, it is James Grant. It’s just tragic that I haven’t heard of him until now.

Posted by at 7:41 PM

November 30, 2005

Review of Chapter Eighteen: Six Qualities of Successful Social Entrepreneurs

“One of the most intriguing papers I came across in my research,? David Bornstein writes in How to Change the World, “contrasted the behavior of ‘highly successful’ and ‘average’ 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.? 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 – and especially those rapidly growing firms in the social sector – need to be adaptive to their environments. In today’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 can’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 business’ stakeholders. Then, make them all NEED your firm.

*Willingness to Work Quietly: These people do not crave recognition or fame or wealth; they want – rather, they need – change. It is this idea that is at the core of the motivational complex of entrepreneurs – the absolute need to do something. As Jean Monnet once noted, ambitious people fall into two groups: those who want to “be someone? and those who need to “do something.?

*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: “Does the entrepreneur dream of building the world’s greatest running-shoe company or vaccinating all the world’s children??

Posted by at 7:47 PM

Review of Chapter Seventeen: This Country Has to Change

David Bornstein’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 Abidi’s case and compiled a number of articles, listed below:


Abidi’s Ashoka profile: “Javed 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 lobby…?

The National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People : “Our 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 places…?


On Abidi’s run for a parliamentary seat in 2004: “ ‘We want to create a space for disabled people within the political system and use it to generate awareness about disability,’ Mr. Abidi told The Hindu as he wheeled himself from one meeting to another soliciting support for the cause…?

What happens when you get into politics: “Disabled rights activist and independent candidate from New Delhi Lok Sabha seat Javed Abidi today demanded countermanding of polls there…?

On a 2004 Indian Supreme Court decision to make ramps mandatory for polling stations: “The Supreme Court Monday directed that wooden ramps be provided at polling centres across the country to enable disabled voters exercise their franchise…?

More problems with the Delhi police: “It 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,? Abidi said.?

Posted by at 2:40 PM

November 22, 2005

Review of Chapter Sixteen: Four Practices of Innovative Organizations

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 organizations 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 entrepreneurs 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.

Posted by at 2:01 AM

Review of Chapter Fifteen: Something Needed to Be Done

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, Khosas 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. Shes 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.

Posted by at 1:05 AM

November 20, 2005

Review of Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen

Jacob Schramms 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 cant 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 isnt enough to get them into college and keep them there. Though early financial planning can make parents invested in their childrens 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.

Posted by at 6:17 PM

November 11, 2005

Review of Chapter Twelve: In Search of Social Excellence

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 Ashokas 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. Its 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.

Posted by at 2:49 PM

Review of Chapter Eleven: If the World Is to be Put in Order

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 Brazils 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 Brazils 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 Brazils 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 entrepreneurs 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.

Posted by at 2:18 PM

November 1, 2005

Review of Chapter Ten: Are They Possessed, Really Possessed, by an Idea?

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 Emersons 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 Draytons 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 cant 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.

Posted by at 8:35 PM

Review of Chapter Nine: What Sort of Mother Are You?

One of the most notable underlying themes of David Bornsteins book, How to Change the World, is the social entrepreneurs 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 wasnt 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 firms mission, Szekeres would be recognized by Hungarys president for her work with the disabled. But that wasnt 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.

Posted by at 6:51 PM

October 29, 2005

Review of Chapter Eight: The Role of the Social Entrepreneur

When youre working through a change, youve got to lay out all the steps in the process across the top and all the key actors down the sides. And when youre designing it, you have to think about each step for each of the actors. And if youve got an actor who is not going to like whats happening in that step, youve got a big problem.

So says Bill Drayton in a piece of sagacious advice for social entrepreneurs. Know the past, present, and future stakeholders in your firm, and plan to meet their interests. Sometimes you must adjust your actions now to accommodate for future events. By planning ahead and considering everyone who will be powerful enough to affect the course of your business, you can avoid stopping points in your firms development.

An idea is like a play. It needs a good producer and a good promoter even if it is a masterpiece. Otherwise the play may never open; or it may open but, for lack of an audience, close after a week.

David Bornstein suggests that no matter the quality of an idea for traditional or social entrepreneurs, champions are needed to bring the idea into fruition. Business and social ideas must be marketed, branded, and given legitimacy. They need someone to move them from the few to the many. And often, the best way to do this is to let one charismatic, bright person take the thought and develop it from infancy to maturity.

The difference in the treatment of business and social entrepreneurs seems to reflect different attitudes about the role of individuals in the business and social arenas.

Businessmen, Bornstein goes on to say, are viewed by society and view themselves as engines of change. They are the innovative, pragmatic, hard-working people who devise new products or ways of doing things and take them to their conclusion. In contrast, social entrepreneurs people like Susan B. Anthony or William Lloyd Garrison are credited as socially-conscious, ahead-of-their-time champions of basic moral rights. Social entrepreneurs are seen collectively as saint-like and idealistic, but without the practical orientation of profit-driven, traditional entrepreneurs.

In fact, of course, the distinction is artificial. Arguably, many of the social entrepreneurs of today (e.g., Jeroo Billimoria) and yesterday (e.g., Florence Nightingale) should be credited with more good sense and pragmatism than the more stock entrepreneur. After all, social entrepreneurs aim to change societies that many people do not want to see changed. Whereas financial markets can gradually guide a traditional business into maturity, social entrepreneurs often take on radical change rapidly. And if they dont get things right as in the case of Billimorias work with impoverished children it can mean life or death for stakeholders.


Posted by at 8:01 PM

Review of Chapter Seven: Ten-Nine-Eight-Childline!

The early career of Jeroo Billimoria, the founder and long-time operator of the Indian child services hotline, Childline, highlights a fundamental difference between social and traditional entrepreneurship. Certainly there are obvious disparities: Each has distinct goals, measures of success, and emphases on means to the ends. But the fundamental, however more subtle difference, lies in the necessity of outside help and reputation. Like so many other leaders of citizen groups, Jeroo discovered that as much as social entrepreneurs think they can take on the world alone, they do in fact need help. And when youre trying to lift thousands of destitute children out of extreme poverty in a country rife with corruption and abuse as in Jeroos case lots of help.

Of course, entrepreneurs of every stripe need financial, human, and operation assistance in starting and running their ventures. An entrepreneurs relationships with banks, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders often determine, or, minimally, direct the profitability and overall success of a firm. But with a social entrepreneur, someone who cant offer big payoffs to creditors or promise vast success to investors, this is doubly true. As Jeroo said of her organization, Childline cannot work in isolation. We used to think we were great people that we could do everything alone. Now we know better.

By the time the firm matured into a multi-city operation, Childline had learned that relationships trust, specifically among all the firms stakeholders were the key to success. Childline sets up Childline Advisory Boards in every city to ensure the firm has access to and the support of influential police, health, and railway officials for its operations. The firm worked strenuously for some time to develop a healthy relationship with the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Department of Telecommunications. Similar-minded organizations in India are now in constant contact with Childline to share vital information and coordinate their efforts. Childline even benefited from a successful media campaign that brought new vigor and financial backing to the firm.

As with any traditional firm, the greatest stakeholder for Childline is the customer the children. Every call is important, Jeroo repeatedly told Childline workers. Often, poor Indian kids looking for help will test the waters at an organization before committing to it. So even when children call simply to badger attendants, Jeroo mandated that employees stay civil and calm to give callers a sense of unconditioned philanthropy.

The point is any firm needs to map, assemble, and manage the various stakeholders in its business. The ability to leverage power and maintain relationships are two of the leading skills for any entrepreneur. The sooner the entrepreneur recognizes the need for these skills, the sooner he can become truly effective.

Posted by at 12:33 AM

October 22, 2005

Review of Chapters Five and Six

What kind of people become social entrepreneurs? What are they like? Do they share the same kind of parents? Do they have a unifying early life experience? What kind of activities do they participate in as children? How do they view themselves as risk-takers, motivators, leaders, achievers?

In short, what makes a social entrepreneur start ticking, and what keeps him ticking?

David Bornstein finds a case study in Bill Drayton, the founder of the large nonprofit Ashoka. Drayton was born to two accomplished parents in New York City in 1943, his father having done ambitious archaeological work in Western Canada, his mother a gifted cellist. Both my parents gave themselves permission to pursue their dreams in life, to do something really excellent that was theirs, Drayton recalls. They looked very conservative and establishment, but they were quite willing to do radical things.

And so it began.

Drayton was an entrepreneur from the beginning he launched, organized, advertised and distributed a 30-plus page monthly magazine before he was out of elementary school. Throughout his early years, Drayton took the initiative to organize boycotts of firms accused of racial discrimination and take on his school authorities even in the face of disciplinary action. He showed himself to be independent, ethically unflappable, and, in a prelude to his later years, socially responsible often and shockingly early.

A child of the civil rights movement, Drayton took particular interest in nonviolent protest especially the methods advocated by Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. Whereas most endorse Gandhi with hardly more than admiration for his spirituality, resolve, and basic ethic, Drayton was taken by his pragmatism that is, his how-to attitude. Certainly, few see Gandhi as a shrewd political calculator or devious marketer; we all tend to think he just started doing things and everyone else followed. But, as is also the case with Martin Luther King, Jr., Vinoba Bhave, and the ancient Indian ruler Ashoka, Gandhi was also a practical-minded, detail-oriented leader every bit as much (and probably more so, actually) as todays top corporate executives.

Later in his youth, between his studies at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford, Drayton immersed himself in the days Indian social movements and environmental work. Volunteering weeks of his time to do construction work in India, Drayton carried himself as a humble learner below the celebrated Indian leader, Vinoba Bhave. Even later along the line, as the Environmental Protection Agencys assistant administrator, Drayton recognized some of the unpopular new compromises that had to be made between industry and environmental groups to create the greatest sustainable good.

And then he went on to Ashoka. Drayton recalls that the first few years of operation were, at best, financially unstable. Neither nonprofit foundations nor leftist groups were very drawn to making social investments in social entrepreneurs. Indeed, his earliest funding came only from personal friends and old acquaintances, one of whom frankly told him, I dont believe in India. I believe in you.

Drayton says, For the first five years of Ashoka, I could not get one public foundation in the United States to support us with one cent. None. It was not that this is a bad idea or because I was inarticulate. It was not because I was not well known. I had just come out of being assistant administrator at EPA and had good reputation from that. Not one of them would risk any money on this idea. How could they miss it?

It was because of personal reputation and an impressive resume that Drayton got his first few dollars for Ashoka. It was because of persistence and faith in his mission that he got the rest.

From his earliest years, Drayton proved to have a go-getting entrepreneurial spirit and a social ethic to boot. He held the two-fold practical, short-term realism and long-term vision entrepreneurs need to keep firms in tact financially while simultaneously driving toward an ultimate, grander vision. Confident and confrontational in 1950s NAACP marches and 1980s environmental debates, Drayton always sought to find compromising, creative, and bold solutions to nagging social problems. And, notwithstanding his zealous penny-pinching as Ashokas founder, Drayton certainly has nothing if not a high tolerance for risky adventures around the globe.

But our questions still remain: Where did those fundamentally entrepreneurial qualities come from for Bill Drayton? Perhaps from his parents, early school teachers, or from his later studies in higher academia? Maybe Draytons emotional childhood in the civil rights movement instilled an inextinguishable fire for justice and social responsibility. Or was it pure admiration for early role models like Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave that drove Drayton to become the front man for social change he is today?

Drayton is certainly a product of all his experiences. But whatever the answer, any plausible explanation needs to meet the sheer complexity of the entrepreneurial spirit.

Posted by at 11:32 AM

October 12, 2005

Review of Chapter Four: The Fixed Determination of an Indomitable Will

Florence Nightingale may well have been one of the founders of modern social entrepreneurship, and she never knew it.

The famous English nurses story is a tale of eminent philanthropy, unflappable determination, and fixed humility. A woman who would be considered independent and brilliant today, she was a sore thumb in Victorian England. Eventually founding the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, writing an estimated 12,000 letters and 200 books, reports, and monographs, and turning nursing from a domestic chore into a respectable medical profession, Nightingale was destined to change the world. As biographer Lytton Strachey writes in Eminent Victorians, though as children Florence Nightingales sister displayed a healthy pleasure in tearing her dolls to pieces, Florence possessed an almost morbid one in sewing them up again.

The common perception of Nightingale is that of a kindly, soft-spoken nurse hustling between beds to administer what few medical supplies she had to dying English soldiers. Her legacy is imbued with the romantic sentimental heroism with which mankind loves to invest its chosen darlings, Strachey writes.

But Nightingale was infinitely more. She was a hard-nosed political force: When the army purveyor refused her when she demanded he resolve incessant supply shortages in Crimea, Nightingale took over his job. She was humble even as a national icon: When Nightingale returned to England a heroine following her achievements in Crimea, she declined all public receptions and accepted only those invitations such as an interview with Queen Victoria that could advance her work, Bornstein writes. Most importantly, she was an independent, pragmatic problem solver. She resolved problems in the War Office, developed new medical procedures over her peers objections, and, ultimately, brought considerable peace of mind to a nation in the grips of war.

Of course, the danger in dwelling on the good-nature of social entrepreneurs like Nightingale is that it obscures what makes them truly successful. Entrepreneurs need to be visionaries as well as problem-solvers, idealists as well as pragmatists (see the chapter six library essay on strategic leadership in Strategic Entrepreneurial Growth). What distinguishes the kindly aid worker from people like Nightingale is a mix of stubborn perseverance, acute idealism, and proactive realism.

To put it minimally, Nightingale was a noble Victorian. Probably more accurately, she exemplified the qualities we need to change the world.

Posted by at 10:52 PM

Review of Chapter Three: The Light in My Head Went On

In their textbook, Strategic Entrepreneurial Growth, authors Donald Kuratko and Harold Welsch argue that innovative opportunities for entrepreneurs arise from several sources, including unexpected events, changes in industry or market structure, and among others, an incongruity between reality and what is possible. "Ingenious entrepreneurs," Kuratko and Welsch write about the gap between what is possible and what is actual, "can devise inventive or innovative solutions to reach the desired/normative state" (127). Some "frustrating" situations that can spawn possible business ideas, the writers suggest, include being stuck in traffic jams, picking up the phone at night to listen to irritating business solicitations, or having to mow the lawn.

Or, if you're Fabio Rosa, you could be faced with the challenge of providing millions of impoverished rural Brazilians with electricity. That's a way to get a business opportunity too.

As David Bornstein shows in "How to Change the World," Rosa has become somewhat of a hero to hundreds of thousands of Brazilians. Beginning his career outside the small southern Brazilian city Palmares, Rosa has been developing innovative solutions to the chronic electricity problems in rural Brazil. His efforts disrupted, stymied and dismantled after their fruition by the government, Rosa has remained resilient through the best and the worst. He knows that whether he has to set up non-profits or for-profits, distribute solar electric panels or dig wells, Brazilian farmers hopes and livelihoods are dependent on keeping the lights on.

Rosas determination should be an inspiration to every social entrepreneur. When privatization of Brazils electric utilities in the late 1990s eliminated the money and interest for rural electrification, the last 17 years of Rosas life were suddenly for naught. Every time I think about it, I get angry, I feel like shouting at the top of my lungs, Rosa told Bornstein. But I try to transform the feeling into a positive force: into solutions.

Persistence, almost any entrepreneur will tell you, is what sets apart the failures from the successes. But its not until students hear stories like Rosas that they can begin to understand what sacrifice, perseverance, and resilience truly mean. And for social entrepreneurs its doubly true whereas the stakes in U.S. small business ventures are measured in dollar signs and status, for Fabio Rosa, success was measured in environmental sustainability and extra dollars that could go toward modern healthcare. For others, like citizen groups working against malaria and AIDS in Africa, the measures are only in dead body counts.

But true social entrepreneurs are the ones who can never be discouraged, even in the face of persistent disease, rural poverty, or ghastly starvation. Those are the ones, like Fabio Rosa, whom even history herself will remember.

Posted by at 8:04 PM

October 6, 2005

Review of Chapter Two: From Little Acorns Do Great Trees Grow

When Bill Drayton established his nonprofit organization, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, in 1978, its unlikely that he realized the impact he would come to have on social entrepreneurship. At the time, Drayton dreamed of creating a firm that would provide the best and brightest young social entrepreneurs with the money, expertise and credibility that would help them implant themselves in needy countries and inspire change. Today, Ashoka provides more than a thousand people from around the world with more than $40 million in funding, along with the professional services they often require.

Despite its overwhelming successes, Ashoka took more than a few big hearts to first get started. Drayton began his venture by first looking for the right people that is, for the right human resources. Drawing on contacts from his college education and former colleagues he had worked with at the EPA, Drayton quickly got the diversity, expertise, human capital, and experience he needed for his venture. Funding for the firm came fairly easily, with donations from Drayton himself and some personal contacts with private charities.

Soon thereafter, Ashoka began its search for worthy young social entrepreneurs. One of the first Drayton and his team encountered was Gloria de Souza, a bright, middle-aged school teacher from Bombay with a new vision for Indian education. Her dream was to dismantle the leftovers from British colonial rule and create a new system that encourages creative and practical thinking. With Ashokas help, she was able to first transform her classroom, then her colleagues classrooms, soon the entire schools policies, and in less than two decades, the entire national school systems policies. By almost every measure, Indian education has drastically improved because of her.

As Gloria de Souza and Draytons international searches for talent testify, oftentimes the best social entrepreneurs are those most familiar with and motivated by the culture and lifestyles they seek to change. Bornstein is unequivocal about this point, as he is about the political and economic limitations that can inhibit social entrepreneurship. But by combining the right people, assembling the needed finances, scouring the right countries, and getting off to a very successful start, Ashoka was able to overcome its initial challenges to step forward into a very bright future.

Posted by at 7:15 PM

October 5, 2005

Review of Chapter One: Restless People

If youre searching for the defining qualities of social entrepreneurs, look no further than the first chapter of David Bornsteins book, How to Change the World: They are transformative forces: people with new ideas to address major problems who are relentless in pursuit of their visions, people who simply will not take no for an answer, who will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they possibly can.

And judging from the recent record, social entrepreneurs are spreading their message everywhere and quickly, whats more. Over a ten year period from 1989 to 1998, the number of American registered public service groups grew by an astonishing 60 percent. Today, some 2 million nonprofit/NGO/citizen groups are thought to exist today in the United States, and another 200,000 operate on Canadian soil.

But its not just in North America. Everywhere from Slovakia, to Bangladesh, to Central Europe, citizen organizations aiming to expedite social change are growing in size and in numbers. Even international citizens groups are expanding: By the end of the 1990s, the number of international citizen organizations had ballooned to 26,000 from 6,000 at the start of the decade.

So whats happening here? Why is social entrepreneurship so hot suddenly? Well, if Bornsteins chapter title is any indication, its because we have a lot of impatient people looking for change.

As Bornstein explains at length, a variety of forces are coming together to encourage the growth of social entrepreneurship. Poverty, disease, corruption, and environmental destruction continue to grip much of the third-world. The Internet and other communication systems are linking people from every corner of the globe, showing comfortable Americans the sad truths of Central Asia. People in the West are working less and living longer, giving them more free time to explore volunteering opportunities. The dismantling of Soviet and Chinese communism has also played a role.

Somewhat more importantly, many people in the third-world finally have access to basic resources that allow them to become their own saviors. New transportation and communication technologies let them spread their message. Micro-loan programs give them the resources to start their own organizations. Mostly, they have grown frustrated with the inaction of the West on the gamut of problems that are holding down Central and South American, African, Eastern European, and Central Asian nations.

In short, social entrepreneurs around the world have decided that it is time to help themselves. And that, in a sentence, sums up the great entrepreneurial spirit.

Posted by at 11:15 PM