Stanford Social Innovation Review : Informing and inspiring leaders of social change

SUBSCRIBE | HELP

Social Entrepreneurship

Rippling

The following is an excerpt from the book.

 

Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World

Beverly Schwartz

288 pages, Jossey-Bass, April 2012

Buy the book »

When Dreams Defy Reality

Currently, social entrepreneurship is as much a field as it is a social movement. A whole new generation of ethical change agents—whether in business or academia or the media—is building a new sensibility about the way we live and interact. For many people, ‘‘social entrepreneurship is now a viable and desirable career path, where work is not just something that you do, but rather something that you are.’’2

All of Ashoka’s Fellows (the people Ashoka deems to be leading social entrepreneurs and elect into a lifelong Fellowship of like-minded people) ripple their innovations through society by influencing other social entrepreneurs, the policy development process, and the actions of the private sector. As I came to know the Fellows I interviewed for this book, I found that they all, at a minimum, possessed four inherent qualities:

  • Purpose
  • Passion
  • Pattern
  • Participation

These characteristics have become my favorite manner of determining if the person is starting out with the defining characteristics of what constitutes a social entrepreneur.

Purpose

I have never met an Ashoka Fellow who did not put society above personal interests and was not firmly focused on the fulfillment of their chosen role. Fellows may takemany roads to get there, but the goal is sacrosanct—and they do not get sidetracked by the boulders strewn on the path. Their clarity of purpose is often the decisive factor that brings individual and organizational efforts together. This is because it defines why they are working toward something and why it is worth working on it collectively. Purpose becomes the invisible glue that connects different actions and actors while it bonds everyone with inspiration. It infuses boldness and calculated risk and it creates loyalties by helping people understand why their contribution is valuable and valued. Purpose mitigates fear and allows inspiration to replace fear with action. Purpose leads to a sense of possibility.

Passion

I am not sure if I can separate the passion from the purpose because I have come to believe that both are always present, tightly intertwined and inextricably linked together. Like strands of DNA (which passion and purpose may actually be part of) you cannot pull them apart. Passion connects to spirit and relates to strength—strength of character, of determination, of connection to others. It kindles and nourishes a ‘‘follow one’s heart’’ courage of judgment. Ashoka Fellows have taught me that real strength lies not in the physical realm but in an indomitable spirit, intense passion, and determination aimed toward goals.

Pattern

The entrepreneurs in this book all decorate their own innovation in patterns. They base this on purpose, passion, and personality. But in a bigger sense, these patterns become models or guides for others to follow. The particulars of their patterns differ greatly, and in fact that individuality is the nature of an entrepreneur. They cultivate new ground and put together new combinations of solutions—or maybe they come upwith just one that no one has ever configured in such away. I’d like to say that they ‘‘build a bettermousetrap’’—but in essence, they eradicate the need for mousetraps altogether by figuring out a way to decrease the populations of mice!

Instead of just trying to alleviate the symptoms of problems, their organizations are trying to find the societal patterns that will unlock the clues to solving the underlying issues. To create significant and long-lasting changes, social entrepreneurs must understand and often alter the social system that creates and sustains the problems in the first place. This way of looking upstream toward solving the root cause of a problem is far more sustainable than looking downstream by trying to put a patch on the outcome. To borrow from public health parlance, ‘‘It is not enough to cure the symptom—for a cure to be sustainable, you must treat the underlying illness. If not, the cycle between cause, symptom and illness will continue to evolve causing a spiral of exacerbated and related problems.’’3

Participation

The Fellows discussed in this book all exhibit leadership abilities. They are often unanticipated leaders, but whether they perceive themselves to be leaders or not, their ability to influence people and have them believe, follow, and join is an attribute that is completely natural and a necessary component for impact. It is that quality that attracts involvement and eventually morphs into civic engagement.

Certainly our 2011 current events lesson on the strength and accomplishment of civic participation in Egypt should make it obvious why this last characteristic plays such a huge part in an Ashoka Fellows program. As an old but true adage goes, ‘‘There is no strength like strength in numbers.’’ The role of the citizen, of the parent, of the child, of the street vendor, of the teacher, of the government official, of the person who is differently abled or who has positive distractions in changing an entrenched cultural pattern are all of significant consequence. It is as much the number of participants as the quality of the participation that is essential for supported and sustained social change to take place. To think boldly, act locally, and scale globally, innovators need more than their efforts as individuals; they need to get multitudes of people involved in seeing their vision, believing in the possibility, actively supporting it, and participating in creating change themselves. Leading social entrepreneurs know that if they are going to make a scratch on history, they can’t do it alone. There is a point when they all know they must step back and let go of any ego-limiting ownership of the idea if they are to involve and instigate the rise of changemakers who can help spread the seeds of change and grow them into a movement.

The ability of social entrepreneurs to scale their programs depends on the strength of people’s participation and their capacity to create movements that are strong enough to shake the foundations of poverty and inequality the world over. But what really makes social entrepreneurs unique? Where do they get their inspiration and passion? How do they convert that inspiration into purpose and who empowers them to think in such new ways? How do we clone these people so that we end up with a better world for all?

Notes

2Beverly Schwartz, ‘‘The Freedom to Innovate: The Contributions of Social Entrepreneurs to the Field of Global Public Health,’’ in Paul A. Gaist (ed.), Igniting the Power of Community: The Role of CBOs and NGOs in Global Public Health (New York: Springer, 2010), p. 81.
3Schwartz, ‘‘Freedom to Innovate,’’ p. 81.

 
Tracker Pixel for Entry
 

COMMENTS

  • C. Thomas Boone's avatar

    BY C. Thomas Boone

    ON April 2, 2014 12:32 AM

    Bev Schwartz’s RIPPLING is an utter joy to read.  Bev’s organization is systematic and anecdotal.  Everything about RIPPING soars and inspires.  I picked it up from Amazon as soon as it was published, thinking to myself “here we go again - yet another incomprehensible attempt (for the layman) at what we mean by applied social entrepreneurship, the network effect, and RIPPLING to make matters even more confounding).  Rather like looking at a mirrored image of a mirrored image or reading the ripples spawned by a pebble cast across a pond.  Even though I knew Bev had made a huge investment of time, personal funds, energy, and sheer nerves of steel into writing this tomb, I was still expecting the same-old same-old.

    Much to my surprise and delight, I picked the book up and did not put down until some four or five hours later, I had completely devoured it.  We have not seen an explanation as coherent and comprehensively organized as this - let alone one as inspiring as RIPPLING is - at least since Bornstein’s HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD and frankly because this is more concise, more coherent, and does a much better job of really explaining the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship plus the wondrous RIPPLING phenomena, I believe for the general reader who isn’t interested in the ins and outs of the sociologic or advanced intricacies of philosophic business models supporting social entrepreneurship (both of which can become very weighty topics), this is the PERFECT book! 

    It even contains a short chapter by President Bill Clinton.

    Buy RIPPLING.  Read RIPPLING.  Pass it around to everyone you know.  Keep those books in motion because the more people who read and get RIPPLING, and are turned on by the promise and hope and wondrous magic Bev has so aptly captured here (which you really have to be Genghis Khan, Scrooge, or the Grynch not to be), the MORE RIPPLING ...

    An absolutely joyful book that teaches, inspires, and is c ertain to be Rippling for a very long time to come written by one a true social change-making genius with inestimable warmth, love, and heart.  RIPPLING and its author simply cannot be appreciated enough.

Leave a Comment

 
 
 
 
 

Please enter the word you see in the image below: