I’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland. I had a number of great meetings with social entrepreneurs and conversations about ‘social entrepreneurship’.
In Ireland and certainly here in the states, I think Social Entrepreneurship still represents TWO frames. The first is having to do with earned income. (I’m reposting thoughts from 2008 below)
The second frame is more broad. It represents the entrepreneurial attitude for change or impact. It’s this second definition that I like and it’s also this second frame that is starting to define the social sector. Go to a nonprofit conference and notice the average age. Then go to a similar conference organized for ‘social entrepreneurs’ and again, note the average age.
We’re obviously fans of the social entrepreneurship because the very term invites challenging thinking and norms. That being said, I don’t think one room (or conference) is superior to another in terms of commitment or values. It’s worth noting that the conversation-at-large is generationally shifting. If it weren’t for the IRS I could argue that in 30 years we might not have a ‘non profit sector’; it might become the ‘social (entrepreneurship) sector’.
NOW is a great time to turn SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER! NOW is a great time to shed BAGGAGE which is holding us back and keeping us from making QUANTUM LEAPS!
Any time I am in front of a audience, I ask people to spend time writing down the SACRED COWS of both the Non Profit Industry (Third Sector, Fundraising, etc.) and of their particular Organization. I usually provide some ‘yeast‘ with things like:
“We need this event to raise awareness/friends.” Special events are not ‘special’ and not ‘events.’ ‘Donors’ hate to go. Staff hates to put them on. The ‘triple net‘ is a very poor return-on-energy and return-on-investment.
“Peers must solicit peers (for money).”Just the idea of the word ‘SOLICITATION’ (the implication of which I cannot go into in a PG-13 document), should be enough to make you give up on this 1950’s idea!
“Feasibility studies are mandatory.”Internal leaders enlist external consultants to do a feasibility study for justification, CYA, and backup. Consultant conversation with a prospect goes like this: “If XYZ nonprofit org were to do a hypothetical campaign with a hypothetical goal, how much hypothetical money would you hypothetically give to this hypothetical campaign?” (UGH!)
I find it fascinating that allowing people to talk about their SACRED COWS and the baggage that they are carrying around unleashes such an enthusiastic response.
I encourage you to go ahead and ‘vent‘ but then get on to talking about real issues that need to be dealt with and that are still happening because “It’s the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s always a great time to get your team together and talk about turning all those SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER and dumping all the BAGGAGE that we are carrying.
On my trip around the world, I saw those ‘sacred cows’ walking around the streets of India. I also learned that once these cows become too old or die, the carcasses are shipped across the border and turned into hamburger.
Along those same lines, a Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi, asks: “Would you carry your luggage on your head while on board a train?” He says we are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on our head, but only straining ourselves unnecessarily.
Special Note: We do take a hard line on many things we consider to be OLD THINKING. The good news is that if we take something away, we’ll always give you a NEW way to think about it. Read more about Sacred Cows and Change here.