Successful Social Entrepreneurs … a book review

Linked with our presentation of Veronica Khosa – South Africa.

Linked also with our presentation of SOS Social Centre Mamelodi – South Africa.

Review of Chapter Eighteen: Six Qualities of Successful Social Entrepreneurs, November 30, 2005 – “One of the most intriguing papers I came across in my research,” David Bornstein 1) writes in How to Change the World, “contrasted the behavior of ‘highly successful’ and ‘average’ entrepreneurs and found that the most successful entrepreneurs were not necessarily more confident, persistent, or knowledgeable. The key differences had more to do with the quality of their motivation.” According to Bornstein, motivated entrepreneurs exercise more foresight, do better and more planning, and search and exploit more opportunities.

They seek long-term gains over short-term profits, and their business is their passion.

It makes plenty of sense, but as Bornstein lays out in chapter 18, a good entrepreneur needs more than drive and energy. After all, as my mother used to tell me, many prison inmates are also goal-oriented and motivated. For Bornstein, the six interrelated qualities that successful social entrepreneurs have incommon include:

*Willingness to Self-Correct: Firms – and especially those rapidly growing firms in the social sector – need to be adaptive to their environments. In today’s rapidly advancing technological and globalized business culture, financial, operational, and external conditions can change in seconds. Leaders who can keepup are the ones who will benefit; those who can’t stay fit and relevant will never be effective.

*Willingness to Share Credit: Sharing success with others is not simply a way to enlist more help or garner larger contributions; for social entrepreneurs,argues Bornstein, it should come from inborn humility and strength. This selfless appreciation is a true measure of character.

*Willingness to Break Free of Established Structures: Think Jeroo Billimoria, Veronica Khosa, and Vera Cordeiro. Oftentimes, entrepreneurship is the child of rigid, stifling structures that act as barriers to change. This innovative approach to business or social change defines the entrepreneurial field.

*Willingness to Cross Disciplinary Boundaries: Identify all the stakeholders in your firm before you do anything else, Bill Drayton once cautioned. Work across functional boundaries to ensure you have the complete support and interest of your business’ stakeholders. Then, make them all NEED your firm.

*Willingness to Work Quietly: These people do not crave recognition or fame or wealth; they want – rather, they need – change. It is this idea that is at the core of the motivational complex of entrepreneurs – the absolute need to do something. As Jean Monnet once noted, ambitious people fall into two groups:those who want to “be someone” and those who need to “do something.”

*Strong Ethical Impetus: This is what really separates the traditional entrepreneur from the social entrepreneur, and Bornstein says it can be summed up in one question: “Does the entrepreneur dream of building the world’s greatest running-shoe company or vaccinating all the world’s children?” (Posted by Jeff – read this and more – on Errands for Humanity).

1) See the book of David Bornstein: ‘How to change the world?’.

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