Please think very carefully before you decide to become a social entrepreneur. Take the decision lightly and you could end up lamenting the day that you wanted to change the world. For being a social entrepreneur calls for extraordinary resilience, and I mean extraordinary.
So, what’s so special about us SOCIAL entrepreneurs? People have been starting businesses for centuries and some of the world’s most successful business people are, technically, social entrepreneurs. Surely no one has initiated more social change than the founders of big American tech companies, literally, in many cases, by introducing us to social media.
Well, the following definition maybe gives you a clue;
a social entrepreneur is a person who pursues novel applications that have the potential to solve community-based problems. These individuals are willing to take on the risk and effort to create positive changes in society through their initiatives. (Investopedia.com)
I mention resilience deliberately, rather than creativity, talent or experience. Every business needs those skills. Social enterprise, however, is greatly misunderstood and perplexes by its quest for innovation. Often part of the “disruptive economy”, social enterprise deliberately seeks a new way of doing something that has been done for years or to create a whole new market. As such, misunderstandings abound.
These misunderstandings and worse, false assumptions, affect investment decisions, they affect corporate governance and they affect the propensity to affiliate. In layman’s terms, organisations are slow to lend, structures such as Community Interest Companies scare those more used to dealing with the charitable sector, and the benevolent worry about supporting edgier initiatives.
The impact of this to the social entrepreneur is that decisions take longer. Rulings sometimes bewilder and there becomes an overwhelming tendency to over-think everything. Unfortunately, for each step-forward there are often another two to be taken backwards first.
I am resilient. Cut me open and it is embossed on my DNA. Yet the social enterprise journey has tested every bit of commitment and metal well-being that I possess. I have spent a whole career picking my battles, learning the system, playing the politics, pre-empting the unpredictable and refuting all assumption. Now, having taken the plunge to reinvent myself, I’ve probably over-thunk (sic) everything.
I am prepared to satisfy everyone, but I’m not committed to, or able to, please everyone, whatever the cost. Too sustainable, too profitable, not enough profit, too new, too entrepreneurial, asking for too little, asking for too much, too many potential beneficiaries, not a business start-up, technically a business start-up, the list goes on. One person’s benefit is often another’s concern.
Change the world by all means, but don’t expect the wider community to readily understand that that is what you are trying to do, or to share your urgency. Tough it out, pick your battles and be good at what you do. Most of all, share what you do widely. We are committed to documenting our journey, if for nothing more than to spread the word about the challenges of perception still faced everyday by social enterprise.
We would love you to come along for the ride. Share our journey on social media and You Tube.