In his articel "The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship," Gregory Dees explains that social entrepreneurs are a rare breed of leader. They possess a set of behaviors that are exceptional.
These traits should be encouraged and rewarded in those who have the talent and temperament for this kind of work. Because the world needs more change makers. And social entrepreneurs are a special breed of leader.
If you're not quite sure if you're a social entrepreneur, here's a few qualities you should look for.
You're a Change Agent
Social entrepreneurs are the reformers and revolutionaries, the trailblazers and the changemakers, driven first and foremost by a social mission. They make changes in the way things are done, in order to serve the causes and communities they care about. Their visions are bold. They seek systemic change and sustainable improvement. And though they may act locally, their actions have the potential to spark global improvements in their chosen fields, whether that is education, healthcare, economic development, environment, the arts, or other social sectors.
You Adopt a Mission to Create and Sustain Social Value
The key distinction between a social entrepreneur and a business entrepreneur is the commitment to a purpose beyond profit. Making profit, creating wealth, or serving the desires of their customers may be a necessary part of the model, but these are merely means to a greater end; they are not the end itself. For the social entrepreneur, the social mission is integral, not an afterthought. Social entrepreneurs want more than a quick hit; they want to create lasting positive change.
You Recognize and Relentlessly Pursue New Opportunities
Where others see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunity. Social entrepreneurs are not only driven by the perception of a social need, or by their compassion; they have a vision of how to achieve improvement and they are determined to make their vision work. They are persistent. The models they develop and the approaches they take can -and often do - change, as entrepreneurs learn about what works and what doesn't. They key is a grit combined with the willingness to adapt as they go. Rather than giving up when they hit an obstacle, they'll ask, "How can we beat this obstacle? How can we make this work?"
You Engage in a Process of Continuous and Learning
Entrepreneurs are innovative. They break new ground, build new models, and test new methods. But innovation doesn't require they invent something new; it can simply involve applying an existing idea in a new way, or to a new situation. they simply need to be creative in combining what they know, or applying what others have invented. This willingness to innovate is part of the modus operandi of the entrepreneur. It is not just a one-time burst of creativity. It is a lifelong practice of exploring, learning, and improving. And of course, innovation comes with uncertainty and risk of failure. Entrepreneurs tend to have a high tolerance for ambiguity and learn how to manage risks for themselves and others. They treat a failure as a learning experience, not a personal tragedy.
You Act Boldly Without Being Limited By Current Resources
Social entrepreneurs do not let their own limited resources keep them from pursuing their visions. They are skilled at doing more with less and at attracting resources. They use scarce resources efficiently, and they leverage their limited resources by drawing in partners and collaborating with others. They explore all their options, between philanthropy to capitalism, and are not bound by sector norms or traditions. They develop resource strategies that are likely to support and reinforce their social missions. They take calculated risks and minimize harm from potential failure.
You Have a Heightened Sense of Accountability
Social entrepreneurs take steps to assure they are creating value. They seek a solid understanding about the causes or communities they serve. They make sure they have correctly assessed the needs and values of those they intend to serve and the communities the intend to operate. They understand the expectations and values of their investors, customers, partners, and team. They seek to provide real improvement to their beneficiaries, and real value to their buyers.
"We are in business to create a better tomorrow. If we live for one another, together we can change the world." -Blake Mycoskie