A recent article in USA Today explains that Yale University has become a hub for social entrepreneurs, having developed a top flight program focused on social entrepreneurship. The article attributes the Yale program’s success to a few factors–it has appealed especially to a number of motivated and high profile women, who have created a robust alumni network to support graduating students looking to get involved.
Yale, of course is one of the country’s best institutions and one that attracts ambitious and deeply talented students. These are students who generally have the ability to get involved in business, finance, and other for profit endeavors. It is a testament to the culture of Yale that it instead can bring the best to the social entrepreneurial world. Getting such students involved in social entrepreneurship, and keeping them engaged in that community after graduation is certain to help our country and community.
Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service and sacrifices of our military veterans. But it also provides an opportunity to celebrate some of our country’s finest and most creative social entrepreneurs. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were as much about social entrepreneurs as it was about traditional military operations. In Iraq alone, more than $50 Billion was spent on rebuilding projects. Soldiers were sent into towns, cities, and villages, and in effect lived amongst locals and were expected to help them build their communities. Projects included clean water, building schools, providing healthcare, improving nutrition, and boosting the local economy. This required imagination and creativity under the most difficult circumstances.
Certainly, the personal and professional sacrifices made soldiers should be appreciated, but keep in mind as well that veterans are some of our best social entrepreneurs.
A recent article in the Huffington Post outlines five ingredients one needs in order to be a successful social entrepreneur. The author, Monika Mitchell, lists the following: Passion, Purpose, Plan, Partner, and Profit. Within the five Ps, a couple common theme that emerges is the need of “others.” Social entrepreneurs often need partners to start and maintain new ventures, often generate profits that benefit their investors–and keep their efforts going–and distribute their social services to benefit communities and other people.
While an individual may often come up with a new service idea, that person is likely to need assistance from others in order to achieve their goals and benefit their target community.
What do you think? Anything you’d add to the 5Ps?
The decision by the Nobel committee to award its Peace Prize to Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was rife with controversy this year. Many believed the award should have gone to Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year old Pakistani girl who almost lost her life last year while she fought for female education in Pakistan. Malala was shot in the head by a militant linked to the Pakistani Taliban because the group objected to her cause.
True to the grace and style of someone who is willing to die defending her beliefs, Malala said “I think I have won” the prize despite not receiving the nod, noting that she had widespread support for her cause. Remembering that your purpose, your work to improve the lives of others, is more important than external recognition will help you stay grounded and determined. Malala is an example for many–not just the young women in her country–and we can only hope she continues to stay active in the world community for a long time.
You ought to check the website Ashoka.org. Ashoka is a sprawling network of social entrepreneurs that covers more than 70 countries in the world. Ashoka’s goals is to provide support and financing for social entrepreneurs. One of their beliefs is “everyone is a changemaker.” I agree.
In particular, take a look at https://www.ashoka.org/youth-venture, which aims to inspire and invest in teams of young people to change their world. This is exactly consistent with Teach2Serve’s mission. Remember that there are other groups out there who want you to succeed in your ventures and in your efforts to make some improvements in the world.
Think you can’t make a difference at a young age? Wrong. Check out this Forbes profile, which highlights 30 social entrepreneurs aged 30 or younger. Included in this list are Hugh Evans, who founded the Global Poverty Project, which is committed to ending extreme poverty, and Simone and Jake Bernstein, who at the ages of 17 and 15, respectively, founded a website that would serve as a central resource for all available community service opportunities.
The takeaway here is simple–at any age you can make a big difference. All it takes is a little bit of thought and a lot of hard work.
I’ve had the opportunity in the last couple of weeks to visit with high school students throughout the region to talk about issues of concern to them and how they think those challenges ought to be addressed. While the problems they raise are diverse and often difficult to solve, I’ve been consistently impressed with the creativity and initiative that these students demonstrate.
Should these students want a little motivation, they should check out a recent guest opinion written by Jeff Skoll and Sally Osberg. Skoll and Osberg explain that addressing the world’s problems requires the creativity and hard work of enterprising individuals as much as it requires the work of big institutions with lots of resources. They should know something about entrepreneurs–Skoll is the founder of eBay, and Osberg is the CEO of the Skoll foundation, which produces the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.
Skoll and Osberg note that entrepreneurs by nature bring about disruptive change. Disruptive change can sound scary, but in practice it means changing an unacceptable status quo, such as bringing clean water to a people that lack it, or improving health services. Key to being a social entrepreneur is viewing challenges as opportunities. As Skoll and Osberg note, “Within every social entrepreneur is an unwavering belief that big, seemingly intractable problems offer unsurpassed opportunities for change. Instead of cursing the darkness, social entrepreneurs choose to ignite the flames of possibility and prove that even our toughest problems can be solved.”
I think you’ll find that maintaining that attitude will help you succeed, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Social entrepreneurs are everywhere, trying to make a difference in their communities, but they don’t always talk to each other or publicize what they’re doing. Keeping track of who’s doing what and what kind of impact social entrepreneurs are having on their world offers a lot of benefits to those of us looking to get involved. For one, we can learn how new ideas have led to progress in communities around the world and apply those lessons to our own work; just as importantly, we can see the proof that one person can change the world.
Fortunately, there are efforts afoot to make sure social entrepreneurs are getting noticed. One has been driven by David Bornstein, author of several books on social entrepreneurs including “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas,” who helped create a site, dowser.org, which aims to keep track of “who’s solving what and how.” Dowser’s most recent article features Molly Melcher, who has worked in Dakar, Senegal for decades to empower and educate local communities. Ms. Melcher is just one of many people you can learn about on dowser.org, so check out the site and get inspired!
A couple of weeks ago we mentioned a series of studies that showed a strong correlation between community service and happiness, but we didn’t discuss the implications of the studies. The results are clear, and striking–doing service in your community will make you happier.
- Volunteering improves health, self esteem, and happiness.
- Children who volunteer are more likely to grow up to be adults who volunteer.
- Children forced to volunteer fare better than children who do not volunteer.
- Communities with lots of volunteers are more stable and better places to live.
- The more often one volunteers, the better the psychological benefits
The underlying reasons explaining why people initially volunteer are a bit circular–most site a desire to give back and make the world a better place, an interest to learn more about their community, to learn new skills, or to feel better about themselves. But the data is clear–regardless of your age, volunteering will make you happy. Something to remember on the days we’d rather be doing something for ourselves!
One issue I imagine that many of you will be discussing in your classrooms is social mobility in America. America, as you well know, has always prided itself on being the land of opportunity, the country where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become successful. But that’s become less true in recent years, and countries such as Denmark, Norway, and our neighbor to the north, Canada, have become much better at moving poor people up the social ladder.
A recent study highlights the social mobility in different areas of the country, and found wide variations. Metropolitan areas around Salt Lake City, San Jose, Seattle, and San Francisco had high levels of social mobility, whereas Atlanta, Charlotte, and Indianapolis scored near the bottom.
What factors accounted for this variation? As summarized by commentator Fareed Zakaria in this article, the most important factor correlating to higher social mobility is social capital — strong families, active civil support organizations, and community service activities. Certainly there are other factors at work here, but do remember that your investment of time and work in your community, and in teaching others the skills you learn in school and at Teach2Serve can have a sustainable, positive impact on your community. Something to keep in mind as you work in and out of the classroom hard this year!