Fellows

Soc-Ent-Solitary

Social Entrepreneurship is: Solitary

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Mario Ferro’s blog, www.imaginethereisno.org, on May 18, 2012 as the last entry in a four-part series on social entrepreneurship. Read the full series here.

Social entrepreneurship is solitary. I have already mentioned this topic in a previous post (here), but this time I take it more personally.

Many people will love your work, but few people truly understand what you do and more importantly why you do it. As a social entrepreneur you will find a lot of times that you are explaining your vision once again to a new person, a journalist, a potential investor, or a person met in a bar and they will look at you in admiration or with skepticism. Very few times you will be able to spot in their eyes the level of empathy that will give you full satisfaction.

You may be misunderstood by your contemporaries for a long long time and let’s be honest, the reason is that probably you are one of those working on an issue that only you and few others can be passionate about, in parts of the world where most people cannot survive for more that three days on a bus tour. Beside understanding that you are doing something “good” and maybe grasping the basic elements of your basic model, you will never be in the position  of a rich banker, a bollywood star, one of those people about whom other say “I’d like to be like him”. To you, most people may say “You are doing a great job, keep it up and best of luck!”

Few people would understand why. Few people take the time to explore the void in your soul that leads you to give up what you have, leave the traditional path to start your social venture, a job that will leave your bank account empty, your health at risk and jeopardize many of your relationships. Most people may simplify your whole self and say “s/he is a great person”, putting you in that group of people that are good, maybe Mahatmas. But that’s too easy, right?

The reality is that you have a problem, you have a big problem with something that you cannot tolerate, that keeps happening  and you feel like there is nothing else you can really do with your life but figure out how to address it. And this problem is something that very few people would get and how you feel about it, and that is at the essence of that solitude that keeps you up at night and that consumes you.

But sometimes somebody gets it! And this the good news. It happens with people you did not expect to meet, sometimes they are social entrepreneurs themselves, they just get it and they can express your vision with adjectives beyond “good”, “great” and “admirable.” I have experienced some rare moments of this level of understanding- I can count them on one hand- and they are precious, they are energizing, they allow you to go on for a few more months. These moments are like islands in the ocean, beautiful green islands where your soul can get some juicy fruit and fresh water before continuing the journey, but be ready it is going to be a long solitary sail.

This post is part of a series of lessons learnt  (by me) while was an Acumen Fund Fellow working with Husk Power Systems in Bihar (India). The aim is to share insider view on the pains and wonders, the joy and blunders, the frustration and inspiration of social entrepreneurship. Here you can find the lesson onetwo and three.

Mario Ferro was an Acumen Fund Global Fellow in 2011 at Husk Power Systems. He is the founder of Wedu, an organization that empowers student leaders, especially girls, from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to become masters of development in their home communities.

Comments

Why India’s Economic Growth Depends on Vocational Training

India has an enormous population of young people – over half of the 1.2 billion people are younger than 25 years old. Yet, only 2% of its 500 million person workforce has any skills or training. The majority work in the informal sector (90%), where there are few opportunities for education other than what workers ‘pick up’ on the job. This reality limits overall productivity, as well as upward mobility. [Read More]

Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

+Acumen’s free online courses are a great way to learn tools that will help you develop both professionally and personally. Whether you are a social entrepreneur who wants to market to your customers or a young professional that wants to strengthen your leadership skills, we are offering six courses this Fall that will help you develop the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. [Read More]

Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]

DE-BUNKING THE BURDEN MYTH: IMPACT DATA GOES LEAN

Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]

Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]