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The Second Wave of Social Entrepreneurs?

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Blair Miller’s blog on 1/12/12.

I had an interesting moment of reflection the other day about the field of social entrepreneurship. We are reaching a point where we are seeing a second wave of professionals moving into this space. I look back to about 7-10 years ago when I started pursuing this work. We were all entrepreneurs in our own right trying to define a career path that just didn’t fit with the mold. We all came at if from different angles and were experimenting in different sectors, geographies, and educational degrees.

The other day though I began to realize that the field of social entrepreneurship is becoming more professionalized. We have people prescribing their careers. First consulting out of undergrad, then a one year stint at an NGO or social enterprise abroad, then B-school, then they land a “job” at an organization in this field. It is so interesting that people are pursing “jobs” in this space, and it is also exciting to see as it is demonstrating that the industry is growing and becoming more institutionalized.

So as I observe this shift, there are two things I am thinking about.

First, what does this mean for the level of innovation pumping in and out of the industry? With a more “traditional” career path into this field, will it stifle the entrepreneurial drive of our industry and/or bring in the systems and processes we need to really grow?

Second, while there is a more traditional path into the field, there are still not traditional career progressions within the field. I find that many people who come into the field for a “job” struggle to see what their career path beyond that job looks like. That aspect of our industry is still very entrepreneurial: the people who are successful at staying in this field understand how to move in and out of sectors and organizations.

With this in mind, it is interesting to see how our field will evolve…

Blair Miller is the chief architect for Acumen Fund’s work in leadership.  In this role, she supports the design, development, and expansion of Acumen’s leadership initiatives including the Global Fellows Program, the Regional Fellows Programs, + Acumen, and University programming. Blair holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @_BlairMiller.

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