Social Entrepreneurship: Economics of a Generation

Not often does a blog post get me to drop everything and respond. But suggesting that social entrepreneurship training sets up an entire generation for failure gets my attention.

The argument (proposed by Josh Cohen and Aaron Hurst of the Taproot Foundation) centers around the burgeoning demand among the emerging US workforce for careers that allow them to make a living and a difference, and social entrepreneurship and innovation training universities have begun providing in response. They conclude:

“Leading social entrepreneurship program Ashoka offers only 110 fellowships in the United States, and other social entrepreneurship opportunities are equally limited.
With 100,000 MBA graduates annually, social entrepreneurship is not a scalable solution for engaging Generation Y in work that fulfills their desire to make a positive impact.”

So…we’re setting this incredibly driven, innovative, ethical (even compassionate) generation up for failure because we don’t have a fellowship available for all 100K MBAs–not to mention the millions graduating in other fields equally committed to making a difference in the world?!

Last I checked, huge demand and limited supply was the perfect recipe for opportunity, not failure.

Social Innovation fellowships, though wonderful programs and responsible for much of the ‘boost’ the field has received in recent years, are NOT the essence of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship/enterprise/innovation is about perceiving opportunities, engaging stakeholders, and iterating solutions. And the field is flexible and emergent enough to allow each of those self-actualizing individuals to make a difference in their own way.

So, no, we don’t need a new conceptual framework. We need to dig in and get our hands dirty, engaging with a generation determined to make a difference as the myriad faces of “social entrepreneurship.”

PS: Check out Nathaniel Whittmore’s response here

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Puppets and Puppeteers

Case study for Participatory Development:

As I’ve seen in my experience (with our student council and also with “taking stewardship” of the hay fields at home), we are set up in a relatively superficial system of “student leadership” or “being our own boss”–there is ALWAYS someone with higher authority playing a prominent puppeteer. It’s a bad relationship because the kids know it, so they loosen their grip on whatever influence they hold and become lazy–relying on that puppeteer to jerk their arm where it needs to go. And the puppeteer gets so set on the “system” of strings attached that they lose sight of the fact that they are only supposed to hold the limbs of the puppet upright and watch them move themselves. If a puppet becomes less aware of the strings attached to it and more aware of its ability to direct its own movements, it will move more (that just seems natural in my mind–I even picture the puppet growing muscular from use. And as the puppeteer twitches the strings less, they will find that their shoulders ache less from holding the system up and they will be able to enjoy the smoother, freer movements of their show.”

Who knows, the puppets might even come up with a brand new dance that makes the audience go wild and the show will be sold out for weeks!