The Responsible Entrepreneur and The Social Entrepreneur – Part Two
July 8th, 2012 · 1 Comment
I posted an entry to my blog last week about the difference between The Responsible Entrepreneur and The Social Entrepreneur, in which I looked at six entrepreneurial characteristics and the necessity for a responsible CHANG(E) system in order to be both successful and responsible in business. Today I am going to build on that start and add another couple of differences between the two kinds of entrepreneur. These are differences that are critical to the responsibility side of the equation and necessary to make change happen faster. Speed matters these days because we may be running out of time on some social and ecological issues.
First, some reminders: A Social Entrepreneur sees a social need or gap and figures out how to make a business out of it so they can make a living while making the problem go away. The Responsible Entrepreneur sees that any business can be carried out responsibly and that, in fact, good businesses always run responsibly. How they do business makes the world better and in all of their work they consciously foster a better natural and social world.
Social Entrepreneurs bring great value to individuals and communities by reminding us of the impact of our choices as businesses leaders and as a species within interconnected ecosystems. They constantly shine the light on side effects and sometimes even the devastation that are created when businesses and governments cease to assess the effects of their choices. They remind us of the generosity of the human spirit and the importance of caring about more than ourselves. They remind us that generosity and caring can and must also be practiced in the secular realm.
The two challenges I want to add today highlight how easy it is for The Social Entrepreneur to work on something that all of us would agree should be changed, but at the same time often and unknowingly take on practices that undermine responsibility in other arenas. Last week I visited two wonderful ventures that are both seeking to effect changes in Africa. They are structured as for-profit businesses and have taken on health in one case and financial independence in the other. They are starting with significant and meaningful problems. They are bringing care for the individuality of people with whom they are working. But they are missing out on connections to the uniqueness of the places in which they are working.
When uniqueness of place is ignored, solutions easily become “genericized.” Promoters view solutions as transferable, they translate to “best practices,” so to speak, across boundaries. Social efforts seem to be particularly susceptible to such generic model building and spreading. But to operate for change in this way breaks the web of life and overlays it with commoditized and homogenized ways of doing business, mixed together and applied everywhere when they should be applied nowhere uniformly. Managed uniformity becomes the practice.
They second challenge may be more worrisome. There is a tendency in such ventures not to activate human agency among the populations they serve. They operate as for-profit businesses but they suffer from the same hubris that undermines nonprofits when they attempt to do good for others. Entrepreneurship exists in the founders but the businesses themselves fall short of developing it within the problem arena. In most cases this is not absolute but it is characteristic of a large majority of Social Entrepreneur endeavors I have touched, and in the last few years it has become ubiquitous. It is not necessary to work in this limited way. With a touch of the work of The Responsible Entrepreneur, an entire venture can be lifted and evolved.
The Responsible Entrepreneur focuses on systems evolution. They see the world as guided and even controlled by social and economic realities, such as legal, tax, and educational systems. How these systems are structured and led predicts what is possible and the likely outcomes. For example, our current criminal justice system (previously known as the correctional system) predicts and may even promote recidivism. Within it there is no justice, reformation or correctional work. No one is “re-formed” in prison to go back as a contributing being in society or corrected in his or her worldview to one that nurtures hope. The system needs to be evolved.
How can an organization work in a way that creates that reformation and improves its business at the same time? It might take on the purpose of ensuring that everyone incarcerated or paroled within the local communities where it does business returns to work having transformed themselves. It could create a place in the community for every incarcerated person by supporting an apprenticeship or jobs program. Or it might work on the other end of the process and build better educational systems for a community. That is what Kingsford Charcoal did when it developed a need for all of its employees to be able to read and write when most were illiterate. Kingsford set up a revolutionary program to create 100 percent
literacy among employees and their families. They extended the program to the public and ensured that everyone in the community could read and write. The total program cost very little out of pocket. It made business sense because it was part of what Kingsford was doing to build a strong business by developing higher levels of capability in all of their experienced and committed workers.
As system evolvers, Kingsford went beyond teaching literacy. They worked to evolve the school systems in the communities where they had facilities. They worked with educators at the local university to evolve teaching methods that worked for a broader range of students, with different learning styles and family situations, and to develop an “engagement system” that replaced grade and class rank. This consisted of written evaluation and conversation in person with students to discover from them how they were doing and what their needs were. The system turned out to be a better predictor of students with higher reading skills than remedial programs and report cards. The old system pointed to a problem in general rather than to solutions appropriate to the unique situations of every child.
The evolution of the education system changed the average high-school graduation rate in six communities from 62 percent to 91 percent. This radical improvement was possible only because Kingsford sought to take on the evolution of the entire local educational system. It provided smarter and more dedicated workers to all the businesses in the community, and these workers in turn felt committed to participate in the evolution of other community systems as they performed at very high levels in their new jobs.
Responsible Entrepreneurs develop capability within their own businesses and the businesses they touch that necessarily lifts up the ableness of people in the communities and markets they serve. They don’t just solve a problem. They teach thinking skills that provide a more wholistic understanding of how change works.
My wish would be to eliminate the need for social entrepreneurs. This would mean that all entrepreneurs would start from more than social needs requiring limited solutions. They would commit to foster change for the betterment of all systems by how they did business. There would be no need to clean up the messes created by bad business and governance practices. In this way Social Entrepreneurs would evolve to become fully Responsible Entrepreneurs.
Please join me July 19 at 1pm PT for a free teleseminar to explore and “try on” The Responsible Entrepreneur series and intensive boot camp, designed to grow your business responsibly to 2-5 times its current value and revenues while making it more meaningful and fun. We will look at the four types of entrepreneurs and explore the characteristics and approaches of The Responsible Entrepreneur, along with ways to evolve your way of working using a CHANG(E) system to guide growth and contribution. This provides the way to turn any venture at any stage and in any industry into a Responsible Entrepreneurial business. Click here to register and get details.
There are limited seats for the introductory teleseminar so register soon and please cancel if you have to change your plans. The seminar is best suited to entrepreneurs who have been in business for at least a couple of years and are ready to grow their business, deepen the responsible worldview across the business, and make it more fun and less crazy-making to be in business.
Please share this link widely. And look for my next teleseminar, for coaches and consultants, coming on August 26th at 1pm PT.