Tag Archives: social

Social Entrepreneurship in the New York Times

New York Times editorial writer David Brooks devoted his March 21 column to social entrepreneurship. The column and Letter to the Editor “Here’s What Social Entrepreneurs Can Do” written by Andrew Wolk, Founder and President of Root Cause and SEA Member, is saved here as a PDF.

One excerpt that hit a bit close to home (something I hadn’t put my finger on but have definitely noticed) is this description of SE’s:

“These thoroughly modern do-gooders dress like venture capitalists. They talk like them. They even think like them. That means that aside from the occasional passion for heirloom vegetables, they are not particularly crunchy. They don’t wear ponytails, tattoos or Birkenstocks. They don’t devote any energy to countercultural personal style, unless you consider excessive niceness a subversive fashion statement.”

Although to be fair, one of my SE friends is actually more at home in his Birkenstocks listening to Grateful Dead DAT’s as he is in his business garb – you just wouldn’t know it if you ever met him while he’s “on the clock”. Fashion sense aside, however, the most salient point in the article to me was this snippet:

“Their problem now is scalability. How do the social entrepreneurs replicate successful programs so that they can be big enough to make a national difference”

To address this challenge, I still think that the research and tools produced by Greg Dees is the best place to start (although Jeff Bradach’s work with Bridgespan is a great follow-up, and I am still just starting to read Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, by Heather McLeod Grant and Leslie Crutchfield). However, Greg’s research on scaling social impact is easy for me to find and available free online (not to mention his status as an SE rockstar), so that’s where I’m pointing you right now. I’d particularly recommend the frameworks for thinking about scaling social impact section, which contains links to some free powerpoint presentations, practitioner’s toolkits, and links to articles and papers which go into greater depth about how to use these frameworks (including a couple of great articles by Greg co-authored by Beth Anderson and Jane Wei-Skillern, although the more recent one requires a subscription to the SSIR).


Taken from a post on npEnterprise this morning:

Ashoka’s Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship has recently developed a “Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Resources Handbook”. The handbook is an excellent reference guide, and can be found in PDF format here.

This handbook includes a mapping of over 250 professors who are actively teaching or researching in social entrepreneurship
from more than 35 countries, with 29 different competitions, over 800 different articles and 200 cases used in social entrepreneurship

Sections include:
– Social Entrepreneurship Programs, Courses, Cases, Articles and other learning resources
– Profiles of Social Entrepreneurs, Support Organizations, and Competitions
– Social Entrepreneur Networks, Conferences and Events

Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector – HBS Interview

HBS Working Knowledge pointed me to this interview with Jane Wei-Skillern about the recent casebook that she and her HBS colleagues James E. Austin, Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard, and Howard H. Stevenson wrote: Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector. Jane co-authored several works with Greg Dees and Beth Anderson that I read when I was working with them at CASE (Center for the Advancement of Social Enterpreneurship), and I really like her work. The book will be added to the list of many that I’d like to buy and read one day. Right now, I’ve got too many in my “to read” pile to go out and buy more!

My favorite part of the interview is excerpted below (emphasis mine), but it’s a brief interview and definitely worth reading in full.

A major challenge facing business leaders is how to enhance the effectiveness of their social responsibility initiatives while substantially improving overall organizational performance.

This challenge cannot be overcome through incremental change in existing activities. Instead, it requires a fundamental transformation in the way that companies do business. It entails identifying new opportunities, creating new strategies, and establishing the structures and processes needed to pursue them. It is more powerful to envision this challenge as an entrepreneurial undertaking aimed at the innovative cogeneration of social and economic value.

Bill Strickland: new book, new blog

Bill Strickland, who I learned about in Greg Dees’ classes at Fuqua and subsequently saw speak (see link for streaming video) when he was honored at the inaugural Annual CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Lecture (Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank was honored in 2004, before his Nobel Prize win), has a new book out, and a new blog on Social Edge. Those unfamiliar with Strickland’s work may want to check out the Manchester Bidwell website.

America Forward Coalition – putting social entrepreneurship on the public policy agenda

In today’s issue of The Enterprising Voice from the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA), they announce that last month the SEA became a member of the America Forward coalition. This new organization’s stated purpose (taken from their website) is:

America Forward works to connect social entrepreneurs with policymakers to promote innovative solutions and provide a new vision for the role government can play in solving our nation’s social problems.

I’m of mixed feelings on this one. Apparently this group came about as a result of discussions led by New Profit, Inc., a venture philanthropy that I’ve heard and read great things about. However, looking at their list of “high impact organizations” I saw some shockers – organizations that I wouldn’t have typically associated with being particularly innovative, enterprising or entrepreneurial.

I also don’t know about the necessity/efficacy of looking for government to play a greater role. Usually this seems to mean greater regulation of limited funds (or setting aside a portion for specific initiatives), rather than an increase in overall funding for the social sector. This often hits smaller, more entrepreneurial organizations the hardest, as they are often young and without the funding, infrastructure or history to scientifically prove their model. If this group starts to really emphasize the importance of investment in infrastructure and professional development in order to foster organizational sustainability and scaling social impact (as opposed to the push to decrease administrative costs that has accompanied the accountability movement in the last 20 or so years), I might be a bit more enthusiastic. However, looking at their blog page, it seems to be more about individual members working to push their individual agendas on Presidential candidates, often under the aegis of social entrepreneurship or social innovation. In my admittedly quick skim, I only saw one blog post that began to address thoughts on transforming the role of government and funding in the social sector in any meaningful way.

Further, in some ways this public policy approach seems to be antithetical to the market-driven, enterprising ideals of many blended businesses in the “third sector”. I would be surprised to see someone like Pierre Omidyar endorsing this initiative. I know that business, big and small, lobbies government for benefits such as tax incentives, funding of new technology initiatives, IP extensions for developing technologies and much much more – I just don’t know that such efforts are where we ought to be focusing our attention.

I see the value in further disseminating the central tenets of social entrepreneurship through media coverage and a “seat at the public policy table,” but worry that the message will only get through in a diluted form, and social entrepreneurs will become synonymous with social workers. Ambivalence abounds. I guess this is another one of those initiatives that I’ll be on the “wait and see” side (aka the sideline).

Great Nonprofits – An Interview with Perla Ni

A message on the npEnterprise listserv mentioned a list of blogs centered around social entrepreneurship. This list included several that I haven’t seen and may need to add to my own links. It also included Beth Kanter’s blog, which I haven’t visited in a while. I surfed on over and found this interview with Perla Ni, former publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and founder of Great Nonprofits.

Real estate, social entrepreneurship, spirituality and more…

I’m back at work after a brief holiday break with my wife and her parents – it feels great to eat too much and just spend time relaxing with family during the holidays! My mother-in-law (MIL), a doctor, is not usually conversant in social entrepreneurship, so she shocked me by letting me know about a social venture I hadn’t heard about yet! I thought that the hot socially-conscious gift this year was the goat, given to families and communities in need throughout the world through organizations like World Vision and Mercy Corps. However, according to the mainstream media that my MIL has been watching, the hot gift is actually The Giving Tree GiveCard™.

The GiveCard is a pre-paid MasterCard® gift card, with a twist. In order to activate the card, the gift recipient must go online and donate 10% of the value of the card to the charity of his/her choice (any non-profit listed in GuideStar). The Nashville, TN company Giving Tree, LLC seems to have hit a home run, garnering this much attention for its flagship product in the few months since an October press release announced both the product and the formation of the company. A for-profit company targeting socially conscious consumers, Giving Tree hopes to have a dual social impact: 1) It teaches gift recipients (often children and teens) the rewards of philanthropy, and 2) It raises money for non-profits. I give them kudos for great marketing, a name that’s easy to remember (and brings strong emotional associations with Shel Silverstein’s book), and a clever way to tap into the socially conscious consumer who wants to teach philanthropy to their kids in a way that won’t engender anger and resentment (e.g. “I wanted new games for my Wii, but my dad just gave me a card saying that I gave a goat to some family in Africa”).

Another conversation was focused on real estate, and the way that the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) and the Triad (Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem) continue to grow despite the national housing market slump. When my MIL asked about potential property investment in Hillsborough, my wife (who is much more up-to-date on such matters than I am) replied that all of the good investment property there has already been bought up by developers and real estate investment firms. Apparently, in order to be able to find a deal on property in the I-40/I-85 corridor between the Triangle and the Triad, you need to go west to Mebane or farther.

This confirmed for me the brilliance and foresight of my friends and colleagues involved in the creation of the Stone House, a project of stone circles. A 70-acre retreat offering space for spiritual renewal and strategic action, this non-profit social enterprise is a brilliantly conceived and well-planned endeavor including elements of environmental and financial sustainability. Still in construction (very green construction, at that), you can learn more about this facility at its website (including a download of their long-term strategy) and keep track of their ongoing efforts at their blog. I’ll be bringing some information on this facility back to the in-laws when we return this weekend for additional holiday celebrations with more extended family in town, including our beautiful nieces (who, despite living far away in Atlanta, have really enjoyed keeping track of one of my pet projects at work, the Museum’s Animal Department blog).

Gift guide for social entrepreneurs

The folks at Social Edge provide a gift guide for the person that wants nothing – other than to save the world.