Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Social Enterprise and Self Esteem

Excuse a somewhat curmudgeonly post. It has been sitting in my "drafts" for some time. Time to hit publish or delete...

It occurs to me that the social enterprise field (#socent for all you who are changing the world by tweeting about it) suffers from a surfeit of self esteem. I am fine with passion and enthusiasm, but I also like to see some healthy debate and critique. Even the self esteem movement recognizes this.

Sure it is important to celebrate success. But too often, this field seems to crown celebrities long before success shows up.  Too often praise gets in the way of the real hard work. Let's not celebrate what's new, but what's working.

A few suggestions:

1) You don't come first. The customer/user does. I don't care what conferences you spoke at or attended. Neither do your potential customers.

2) It isn't about "helping" others, it is about working with others to fix something that sucks.

3) Entrepreneur is an attitude. I don't introduce myself as an "American Entrepreneur." Why do you call your partner an "African Entrepreneur"? (or "microentrepreneur"). Have you asked her what she'd like you to call her?

4) Keep an eye out for how often you use the word "they."

That's probably enough for now.


Keith said...

Here here!

I have a few drafts of (always too negative-sounding) blog posts that I'm holding on to as well, especially on the topic of this field "crowning celebrities" before actual accomplishment and success... (There's so much *potential* and so many *prototypes* and, usually, such little of the serious work needed for implementation and scale!)

Keep it up, I've followed you for a while but I don't think I've commented on anything until now.

Carl Hammerdorfer said...

That's what I like about SEAF. They make about 1/10th the noise of some of the big "impact investors" and about 20X the impact.

Anne said...

Finally someone is addressing this problem. I live in the UK, work with a Charity and get to go to Africa quarterly to work with village women on Micro-financed projects, ans you're a most definitely spot on!
I think more time needs to spent listening to the people whose lives are affected, they're not stupid, and no, we all don't have the solutions to their problems. Did anyone ever ask them to choose between a 'handout' and a 'hand up'? These are proud, strong people who produce more/per $ if given half the chance. We need to listen to them more, maybe then we get better outcomes