In his latest book How to Change the World award-winning author and journalist David Bornstein identifies the attributes that define a highly successful social entrepreneur. Here they are – some refreshing wisdom for would-be world changers:
• Be willing to self-correct – it takes a combination of hard-headedness, humility, and courage to stop and correct yourself. The social entrepreneur’s inclination to self-correct is tied to the goal rather than the approach or the plan.
• Be willing to share credit – in the wise words of Bornstein, “There is no limit to what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
• Be willing to break free of established structure – the word “entrepreneur” originates from the French language, and means “to take into one’s own hands.” Look at what is around you, the structures you work within, and the routines that you participate in and consider where you can break free.
• Be willing to cross disciplinary boundaries – a primary function of the social entrepreneur is to serve as a kind of social alchemist: create new social compounds; gather people’s ideas, experiences, skills, and resources in configurations that society is not naturally aligned to produce. Simply put, think and act differently!
• Be willing to work quietly – Bornstein cites a thought from Jean Monnet, who orchestrated the European Unification: there are those who want to “do something” and those who want to “be someone.” The few who create deep impact more often fall into the first category.
• Strong ethical impetus – successful social entrepreneurs aren’t fuelled by a drive to become famous or wealthy, but rather a desire to restore justice in society and to address social problems. This belief is not only evident in their work, but in how they live their lives.
Most of this is about character. Change has always started with the man or woman in the mirror. As Bornstein points out, more than anything else it’s the spirit of the social entrepreneur – their beliefs, attitudes and values – that creates a better world for everyone.