“I want to be part of that!” (Part II)

This second half of the reflection has been a bit delayed. You can read Part I here.

The JetBlue “All You Can Jet” experience and the growing momentum of the Tipping Bucket adventure seem to have crammed a great deal of experience and exposure into the last 60 days. You’ve probably experienced something similar–like 6 months of interaction have been compressed into 1.

One of the themes that’s emerged from the blur is this linguistic anomaly: I don’t think I have ever heard someone say they want to “do” social entrepreneurship…or “work in” it…or “try” it.

The language of social entrepreneurship is fundamentally different. They want to BE.

Social entrepreneurship is about being part of something, something bigger than yourself, something lasting and meaningful. Social entrepreneurship is something that you give yourself to. Before long it takes over. And, next time you turn around, you are a social entrepreneur.

Advertisements

What’s Your ‘Gateway Drug’?

We owe much of the perennial growth of the drug market to a collection of substances known as ‘gateway drugs’— relatively quick, harmless highs that open the door for progressively stronger, more expensive drugs. But perhaps social enterprise can help turn this insidiously successful tactic to more productive ends…

Like junkies, successful change agents fixate on their cause. They crave it, sacrifice for it, and are willing to expend ever greater effort, against ever greater odds, to move it forward. Leaping headlong into that life would leave just about anyone exhausted, overwhelmed and cynical.  That’s where the ‘gateway drug’ comes in.

For example, a recent survey from DigiActive suggests that online activists often come into that community through other, more run-of-the-mill social networks. Social networks are a gateway drug for online activism. Once you’ve learned the norms, mastered the tools, and made the connections in facebook, creating online petitions or leading a discussion board comes pretty naturally.

The same could be said of disaster relief drives that cultivate life-long volunteers, the flickr comment that inspires an amateur photographer to start booking portrait sessions, or the sporadic blogger who ends up spearheading a massive social media campaign.

Metaphorically speaking, every cause needs addicts, junkies, even dealers. What current utilities, networks, or platforms could be the key to ‘hooking’ your next evangelist?

What IS Development?

I’ll be honest, I got a little annoyed with the results of my google search on this subject. Most of the sites I got to (including this potentially great one from the world bank targeted to primary school children) all basically said the same thing; Development is about rich countries giving money to poor countries to help them become rich countries. Some were full of buzzwords like sustainability and economic mobility. Some were sappy, some were dry and some were downright condescending. Most were pretty oversimplified. And none of them, for me, captured what I think development is all about.

Development to me, is about releasing potential energy. Like a drawn bow, or a loaded spring, or just an arm pulled back to throw something, developing communities (whether they’re in Bamako or Boston) are FULL of potential energy—they vibrate with it. But there are things about living there that prevent this force, this generative energy, from being released.

Continue reading

The New[?] “Haves” and “Have-Nots”

For several years now, scholars and pundits have been talking about the effects of what they term the “digital divide;” the widening rift between those who have access to and skills to use new information technologies and those who don’t. Often, they speak of this gap as if it has changed the face of privilege in the world–it used to be that material wealth separated the haves and have-nots, now it’s information.

The more I think about it, the more I believe this concept isn’t new. Access to information and learning  has always been what separated the haves from the have-nots. One history of an ancient people includes this observation [and caution]: “And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.”

Whether the idea that knowldge and chances for learning divide haves and have-nots represents a paradigm shift or not, it has been sobering to remember this week that no matter how it’s delineated, I come down squarely on the side of the “haves” every time.