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).