“A social entrepreneur? Is that what you call business people with good hearts?”
Philanthropy is changing so quickly that it has outpaced the terms used to describe it. I spend a lot of time advising people on how to be a part of social change. This includes explaining to them that a complete grasp of all the terms thrown around by professors and NGOs aren’t required to be a part of this movement. Assuring groups I speak to that, “You can trust me because I’m an expert.” I’m still learning to be a dramatic speaker. So I insert an extended pause after that statement for added stress (note: If you try this with your friends you’ll need to pause here for the laughter anyway). Then, I’ll adjust and readjust my glasses until I feel smart, and finally in my most enlightened voice add, “As a matter of fact, I got my degree in social change from Wikipedia.” I’ll look around to collect all the raised eyebrows and begin to explain why ALL of us –despite whether you think you’re qualified or not– are capable of transforming our communities.
The definitions according to Wikipedia:
- Philanthropy – Any altruistic activity intended to promote good or improve human quality of life (more).
- Social Entrepreneur – Someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change (more).
The importance lies not in the terms, but in how easily attainable they have become. Thus, for the School of Wikipedia or the School of Hard Knocks, I highlight the following:
You have a role. If you don’t know what that role is then you’re like the majority of us. What makes you thrilling is not having it all figured out. Change makers are the ones actively pursuing their roles and encouraging others to do the same.
These concepts are not new. However, new technology is now able to connect people around the world who are working for social change. So what do we call it? We’re not sure yet because the words we use to describe them are still being created. Many “experts” make frequent visits to wikipedia to look them up too!
Same-Same, But Different. There are those studying social entrepreneurship at top business schools. Others are barefoot in places you can’t pronounce making these principles happen. I’m somewhere in the middle with my degree from Wikipedia and heart to serve. Regardless of where you are, we need a combined effort where none of these is better than the other.
“We’re going to need a new generation of citizen leaders willing to commit ourselves to growing, and changing, and learning as rapidly as possible.” – Katherine Fulton
As we continue the discussion on creating change around us, look at the lecture below from Katherine Fulton who goes into greater detail about the evolution of philanthropy. For those who already define yourselves as philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and change makers, take heed: Be broad. When possible, speak plainly and work together. Nurture the community by helping people define their roles and contribute.