Become Local Change Makers Through Social Entrepreneurship
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Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning ‘a reason for being’, which is roughly translated to ‘thing that you live for’ in English. Each individual’s Ikigai is personal and specific to their lives, values and beliefs. A social entrepreneur’s Ikigai is to bring systems change and/or mindset change with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges. From deep within, he/she is committed to the good of all. They are ambitious and persistent — tackling major issues and offering new ideas for systems-level change. Moreover, social entrepreneurs are not trying to ‘capture a market’. They make their ideas as simple and as safe as possible so that people in thousands of different communities will seize the idea and become local change makers.
BE A CHANGEMAKER
We now live in an ever-changing world that demands everyone to be able to contribute to and adapt to change, i.e., to be a changemaker, to be able to participate and contribute. However, not every changemaker is a social entrepreneur. There are very few systems or mindset-change entrepreneurs. It’s 1.6 or 1.7 per 10 million population for the top social entrepreneurs. The social entrepreneurs need the local changemakers, who in turn need the role models and structuring that social entrepreneurs bring to initiate and make change possible. Another way of thinking of this is that the top social entrepreneurs constitute (imagine CEJs as the quintessential methodology here) as ‘the team’ of ultimately millions of teams as big ideas spread out across the world and trigger a wave of change.
Business led the ‘everyone a changemaker’ revolution when, by 1700, it was telling everyone, “If you have a new idea and make it work, we will make you rich and respected, and we’ll copy you.” The citizen sector, which depended on government (which could not tolerate competition), only broke free and joined this entrepreneurial and competitive architecture around 1980. Since then, the citizen sector has caught up with business in entrepreneurship, competition, scale, elan and more. As humanity comes closer together in one brain-like new reality, both sectors need to move to the same new ‘fluid, open, integrated team of teams’ specieswide organism system. They’re both going to have to recruit changemakers; help everyone in their respective orbits become changemakers; organize in fluid, open, integrated teams of teams; and think through strategy, recognizing this radically opposite new reality.
BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY
Both the government sector and the citizen sector must serve the good of all, and they both must learn from one another in areas as diverse as ensuring that everyone in both universes are changemakers, in spreading the benefits of technology and protecting against its ills, and in jointly attacking many great challenges and opportunities. The citizen sector has the advantage that the core motivation of the social entrepreneur (to serve the good of all) causes the social entrepreneur to be concerned with all dimensions. Because the social entrepreneur is committed to the good of all from deep within, they have the competitive advantage of automatically taking the full array of causes and effects into account. This also causes social entrepreneurs to constantly be pulling society back towards the good of all.
There are several challenges faced in systematically finding these extraordinary social entrepreneurs at the launch moment in their careers -- before their ideas were even fully developed and certainly before they were demonstrated and understood. And how to build a system to do this? The above mentioned five-step selection process helps single out the ideas and the entrepreneur who will change the pattern in their field at least at a continental level. There is an annoying confusion at the moment between the current enthusiasm for ‘social enterprise’ and social entrepreneurship. Social enterprise cannot serve the vast spectrum where profit is unlikely, and they are not well-positioned to compete against the for-profit finance industry for the bulk of profitable companies. Social entrepreneurship is a much bigger idea, although there is a need for both.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that India faces the ‘everyone a changemaker’ challenge. The rate of change and the degree and extent of interconnection are going up exponentially, faster and faster all across the world. The choice is to prepare all Indians to be able to contribute to this change-- in which case it can either quickly become one of the world’s most successful societies -- or to miss the opportunity and end up being deeply and bitterly divided by ‘the new inequality’ between a portion of the population that can and is playing in the new game and the others who do not have the ability to do so. This, ‘the new inequality’, is deeply destructive and divisive leading to unequal income distributions across the world. There’s a bidding war for those who have the skills to participate in the fast-growing ‘everyone a changemaker’ world. Indeed, that demand is rising exponentially just as the demand for repetition is fading drastically. This is worse than all those that went before because it deepens every year -- and by an amount greater than it deepened the year before. Each country tends to think they are a function of peculiarly local dynamics. However, they are universal because the underlying forces are universal.
Individuals and organizations that see the historical transition that is already dominant will have tremendous advantages. On the other hand, missing a deep historical turning point like this is a big mistake. This profound transformation taking place because the ‘everyone a changemaker’ world is a dramatically better world. With everyone a collaborating changemaker, there is no way the problems can continue to outrun solutions. With everyone needing all those in one’s constantly changing team of teams to be highly skilled, this is inherently a society where everyone is powerful.
Finally, this is a world where everyone can experience happiness and health of living a life of expressing love and respect in action at significant levels. Ashoka is a community of the world’s best social entrepreneurs. There are roughly 4,000 Ashoka Fellows who are hugely powerful.
(This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)