Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I recently finished the book "How to Change the World" by David Bornstein about people that fall into the category "social entreprenuers" and an organization that seeks to promote their work called Ashoka. Social entreprenuers as defined by Ashoka are people who "have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change." These people basically are innovators in civil society who have created powerful non-govenmental organizations.
This book unlocked the world of social entrprenuership for me. Before reading "How to Change the World" I had no idea that such a term existed and that there exists a network to assist and fund their work. The back of the book provided a number of websites for other foundations like Ashoka and links to networks where the stories of social entreprenuers are told and discussed online.
Ashoka (ashoka.org) itself is a pretty amazing organization. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, it is now the leading organization that supports creative civil society projects worldwide. To date Ashoka has sponsored around 1,500 social entreprenuer fellows, lending consultation services and financial support so the fellows can focus on their programs. The process of discovering new people however is very selective, but the ones that are picked definately have an impact.
93% of fellows have had their work replicated by others.
and over 50% have influenced policy change on the national level.
(So the graphics are pretty hard to read but they back up the statistics. If you click on it it will show the graph more clearly with a white background)
Beyond Ashoka, I have found the social entreprenuer network Social Edge (socialedge.org), a program of the Skoll Foundation, very interesting. It features the stories of Peace Corps volunteers that have made a huge difference either in their Peace Corps communities or since returning with valuable experience. Social Edge has blogs from social entreprenuers as well as interviews that ask how people see what the world will look like in 2017.
One of the featured blogs is "The Kiva Chronicles" written by one of the people who started kiva.org, the website where people can lend $25 microcredit loans to small businesses all over the world. While this has been an innovative venture to start a microcredit lending system on the internet, the original concept or microloans was first discovered by Mohammed Yunus, a Bangledeshi professor, in bangledesh in the 1970's. I found the Kiva Chronicles blog a good read because I have used the service and because it is an interesting account of a growing project by the project's creater. Matt Flannery of Kiva writes about new features to the website and their implementation as well as the site's traffic prior to and after he and his wife Jessica (the other co-founder) appeared on Oprah earlier this month. In case you wanted to know, here are Matt and Jessica talking about the founding of kiva.org, an interview also found on Social Edge. They say kiva was the solution to a pre-marital problem.
Coincidentally, David Bornstein, the Author of How to Change the World is also interviewed.
I'm realizing that many things that I'm interested in are connected as I explore networks like social edge and read books like How to Change the World. There are many ideas out there that need to be perfected and that haven't even been thought of yet. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to change the world.