I’d like to say that I jumped into this “social entrepreneur” realm with both feet and took off running – but that’s not the case. I’ve taken my time. I’ve watched and listened. I’ve been extremely hesitant and self-conscious about my choices. I’ve doubted my abilities and my ideas. But the more involved I get, the more empowered I become.
First, let’s talk about what a “social entrepreneur is:
“a person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change.”
So yeah, that’s me, and actually a lot of other people too. The more involved I get, the more people I find with similar goals. But why then, if there are so many of us, are things taking so long to change – or in some instances not changing at all? So I paused my journey and reflected. Do I want to continue on this path like so many others or do I want to forge my own path? If anyone were to question my response to this they don’t know me – I mean, I wore a towel skirt to high school and rocked it – so hello new path, let’s forge away.
The reality is that our global economy and society are unsustainable at their core. No amount of tweaking or fixing will make them sustainable. Sure, we can create social enterprises that patch up the ills created by our current systems, but that comes with the silent resignation that all we can do is make life a little bit better as we slip into the unknown abyss of an unsustainable world. Yay! Doesn’t that sounds fun?
Many social entrepreneurs have their hearts in the right place but are not going far enough to create systemic change. Systemic change – another word people throw around a lot. Let’s take a look at it:
“change that pervades all parts of a system, taking into account the interrelationships and interdependencies among those parts.”
While many social entrepreneurs like to think they are focusing on full systemic change, in reality their working on piecemeal change. Do we just want to temporarily fill in some potholes on our roads that will just keep cracking or build a more efficient and sustainable mode of transportation that doesn’t even need those crumbling roads? Its a paradigm shift that we need – a fundamental change throughout all of the basic concepts.
Then you have those that are not social entrepreneurs at all, but social opportunists who “social-good wash” a market opportunity and profit from it. Not naming names – but we all know them. Neither are creating the structural changes to our society and economy that we need to survive.
What we need are social entrepreneurs who hack the hell out of the current system and create new systems where the externalities are regenerative and sustainable. Neoliberals and Marxists both believe in “creative destruction”, so let’s get to it.
So what is social hacking? It is creating enterprises that don’t respond to the problems that our current system creates, but change the way we do things so those problems do not occur in the first place. Ahhh, wouldn’t that just be nice?
It is rethinking scale and revisiting replication. Systems that put a premium on scale value control so the maximum amount of power and wealth flow to the few at the center – not cool. Replication values solutions that others can copy and adapt so power and wealth are distributed more evenly to many – that’s pretty cool. Just as our financial portfolios need diversification to mitigate risk and thrive, our social, economic and cultural systems need diversity to thrive and maintain a healthy and functioning system as well.
So, yeah, that’s the real me – I’m not just a social entrepreneur, I’m a social hacker. I may be flipping the board game over with a big middle finger to the people sitting at Candy Castle and taking away Lord Licorice’s fun of holding those at the bottom back – but to make it a movement, you first have to stop playing the game. It’s going to be a longer and harder road, but I’m ready to finally jump in with both feet.
I’m creating a system, www. Gets2Give.com that works for the local community, not corporate america, not political agendas, not those that are already making their way to the top – or currently reside there – but the power of the people and their immediate social needs.
First, I want to challenge the way we, as a society, finance social good. Americans rely on nonprofits for food, shelter, education, healthcare and other necessities, and everyone has a stake in strengthening this social infrastructure. However, there is a growing gap in between the level of charity that we need and the level of charity that people, and the private sector, are willing/able to fill; thus, leaving the responsibility of that gap in the hands of the government. And even with the private sectors contributions,the majority comes from – you guessed it, those at the top. It’s an endless popularity and monetary driven game, if you know the right people and have the right resources, you’re good, if you don’t, well – good luck. Who cares which need is greater – right? Wrong.The struggles nonprofits face are not the short-term result of an economic cycle – there’s money, its just not available to everyone – they are the results of fundamental flaws in the way we currently finance social good.
Secondly, I want to reexamine how we, as a society, contribute to an entrepreneurial eco system. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. Nearly twenty-eight million strong, they employ more than 56 million workers and create two out of every three new jobs in America; That’s 99.7 percent of all employers nationally, with more than 50 percent of all Americans under their employment. That’s a really freaking big deal – hello people complaining about jobs and the economy, stop overlooking the real forces of the market. Who creates jobs? Small Businesses. Who stimulates the economy? Local Consumers. Why are we not focusing on them? Because that wouldn’t be “compatible” with the current system our society functions in. So let’s change the system!
Encompassing those two goals, my mission is two-fold: to lessen the need for government action and increase the overall efficiency of the charitable movement based on need instead of power and wealth; and to build and promote a self-liquidating system focused on sustainability for the community as a whole, where small businesses will be able to mutually reinforce each other and pioneer the changing of the face of business, to bring it back to the local level. I may not have a lot of resources, but I’m determined and I’m all in. Let’s do this.