What is the role of the Social Entrepreneur?

I’m reading ‘How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas‘ by David Bornstein. The book is a collection of stories and essays on social entrepreneurs; and a must read for anybody fascinated by social change. I’m on chapter 8, which is an essay titled, ‘Role of the social entrepreneur’. Its very well written and I wish I could reproduce it. In this post I’ve written a few of my views on the essay and have quoted Bornstein contextually.

The main motive behind the chapter was to show how social entrepreneurs are hidden behind their path-breaking ideas and rarely given credit. Actually its not a matter of credit, but also that social entrepreneurs are not as well scrutinized or researched as the case with business entrepreneurs. While business entrepreneurs have been given due credit for their role in changing the economies, social entrepreneurs are yet to be recognised as important forces of societal change. This is because sociologists consider factors driving social change- demographics, technology, economics, political processes- but do not consider the role of a ‘charismatic leader’. In social innovation, ideas are more valued than people. People are just audience and are considered to have minimal role in an idea’s successful propagation.

Such a thought would not fly for a second in the world of business, because its been proven over and over again that people driving ideas are more important than ideas. An idea with a great prospect will fail to reach its true potential if not fanatically pursued by a passionate and determined leader.This reasoning holds true in the social entrepreneurship world too.

A contemporary example will be Al Gore for ‘Global warming’ (personally, I think his picture is biased and very distorted. But thats another story.). His main role was that of an evangelist, a whistle blower or a lobbyist. He’s made the US and Europe, frantic and paranoid about global warming. Thats no mean task. I think he’s done more, than any scientist could have with research statistics.

Bornstein says, “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.” Ideas need champions and this is especially true for ideas which threaten status quo and go against all traditional wisdom or norms. Bornstein quotes James O’ Toole from the book, ‘Leading Change: The Argument for Values-Based Leadership’, “The major factor in our resistance to change is the desire not to have the will of others forced on us.” So if ideas need to take root as concrete realities, they’ll need an obsessive, bullheaded tyrant with motivation to drive, persuade, cajole or inspire others into accepting the idea and its prospects.

Today when we try looking at various major social change that were once revolutionary and today, seem only logical, there was certainly one leader/entrepreneur who ignited the change. I can think of dowry abolition, sati abolition, widow remarriage, etc all being pioneered by various personalities like Ram Mohan Roy, Dayanand Saraswati, Babasaheb Ambedkar, etc. The fact though is, there’s hardly any literature on scrutiny of their methods employed to reach their targets. Its probably because all the above people were praised as saints or mahatmas, one beyond any comparison with normal humans. In Christianity all the saints were almost certainly just proponents of great positive social progress and not really ‘Holy’ in the strictest terms. Since their motives were so selfless, their methods of achieving them haven’t been recorded. It so appears that even though social entrepreneurs were identified and glorified much before business entrepreneurs (who were first identified in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith in 1776), there’s hardly any popular study on their methods.

I hope you read ‘How to Change the World’‘, for essays on some contemporary entrepreneurs, who are Steve Jobs and Bransons of the social world. And if the world is lucky, you’ll decide to change the world too.

6 Responses to “What is the role of the Social Entrepreneur?”

  1. April 5, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    a blog a day,keeps the ghosts away

  2. April 5, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    I wish you would say something more useful in the comments. Would be of more value…

  3. April 6, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Lets see.
    Social Entrepreneurship is a heavy word.Seems to be the ultimate ,heady mix of social good and business sense.
    I am reminded of this old man I met last year during an exhibition in megabucks.He was from a nearby village.He thought he had a perpetual motion machine and I got into a debate that almost bordered on a quarrel trying to show him where he was going wrong.

  4. October 18, 2009 at 5:19 am

    How fucking dumb is and boring is this shit, why the fuk would you read a shit book like that, its full of essays wtf, go read harry potter you dumbcunt, and why black background r u retarded or goth or something, id rather fall in a dumpster of shit then read this crap, go get a life, and whyd u even write this shit, wtf man

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