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Social Entrepreneurs Are Creative Combiners

Social Entrepreneurs are a special breed. If there is one thing they specialize in, it is in bringing together ideas, people, or practices that wouldn’t naturally coalesce. As a social entrepreneur, you are a creative combiner - a fusion maker – and you will constantly be breaking boundaries and building bridges. Those bridges may be between purpose and profit, between buyers and beneficiaries, between fields and industries – all in the service of a better world. And this makes them particularly distinct from traditional businesses.

Traditional businesses tend to operate in silos.This is the legacy of the Industrial Revolution, and mass production, where factory workers were made to focus on one tiny task in an assembly line, and do that over and over again. This leads to a culture of monotony, conformity, and compliance. It forced us into habits of narrow thinking. It keeps us stuck. It prods us build walls instead of bridges. And it fails to produce new solutions to big problems.

Solvable problems are usually solved by creative alternatives. If an obvious solution from an obvious source could have provided an answer, it would have happened already. But it’s the odd combinations, and unlikely approaches, that win. For example. . .

Cure Violence: Gary combined epidemiology and social science to reduce gun violence. Gary Slutkin is an epidemiologist and former head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Intervention Development Unit. When he returned to the United States after his decades-long tenure fighting infectious disease abroad, he applied his epidemiological expertise to determine that gun violence spread exactly like a virus. He then launched a multidisciplinary intervention called Cure Violence in one of the most violent communities in Chicago, reducing shootings by 67% in its first year.

City Arts: Sherry combined ballet with criminal defense to rehabilitate trouble youth. Former ballerina, Sherry Jason, turned criminal defense attorney. She founded City Hearts with the belief that the arts can rehabilitate troubled youth who are plagued by drugs and gangs. City Hearts is now an integral part of the prevention and rehabilitation efforts in Los Angeles' inner city.

Kind Snacks: Dan combined his passion for food and fitness to create a little bit of peace in the Middle East. Daniel Lubetzky's parents were Holocaust survivors, and seeing the impact of genocide and hatred on the generations that bore it, he was determined to do whatever he could to prevent that from ever happening again. So he built a factory to employ Palestinians and Isralies to source the ingredients for his healthy snacks, allowing them to work together and foster economic diplomacy.

Once you recognize a pain or injustice, social entrepreneurship is an opportunity to tap into your assets, and bring our own experiences, talents, personality and point of view to the social problems you want to solve, the people you want to serve, and the work you want to do.

And the world is changing faster than ever, and that distinct combination is exactly what we need from you right now. We need more creators, problem solvers, and generous leaders who are making things better by making better things - and creating a new way forward. And your best work, and greatest contribution, is the intersection of who you are, what you can do, and where you’ve been.

This piece is critical, becaus you are not a cog. We’ve been trained to hide our unique voice, or pretend its not there, because the systems around us push us to conform. But we simply need to find the courage to be more creative. Innovation is simply the process of combining familiar ideas in new ways. The forces that are holding us back have long been unseen, but now that we can see and understand them, we can begin to challenge status quo, and do our best work.


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