- The Six Habits of Highly Effective SOCIAL Entrepreneurs
Aristotle said we are what we repeatedly do. If that’s the case, then we can look at social entrepreneurs through the lens of habits – what they do day in and day out. Here are six habits that set them apart and help them achieve success.
I offer this simple framework to help us understand and practice social entrepreneurship so that our efforts at social change can become true success stories rather than simply “learning experiences.”
When we study the stories of social entrepreneurs, we learn that they succeed when they…
Social and environmental problems may be what motivate social entrepreneurs but they don’t focus people on the “problem.” Instead, they engage others and create excitement around new solutions, usually in the form of a product or service. They talk “value propositions” not mission statements.
Social entrepreneurs know exactly how their solution benefits people or the environment and they measure their success by their impact, not by their good intention. They know the difference between outputs (which measure your effort) and outcomes (which measure the impact of your effort). They measure outcomes so they can know and show the real difference they’re making.
Establish CHANGE MODELS
Whereas businesses find systematic ways to generate profit, social entrepreneurs find systematic ways to create change. They find formulas for change (also known as change models) that can be repeatable and scalable. This allows them to focus on the essentials and bring change to as many people as possible.
Social entrepreneurs know social change is complex and much more difficult than getting people to buy your can of soda. It often requires behavior and/or system change. To achieve that type of impact, you need understanding, empathy and collaboration. Social entrepreneurs succeed when they include others in the design, production, distribution and evaluation of their solutions.
The vast majority of social entrepreneurs have to bootstrap their way to success. So you don’t start with “business plans.” You start by creatively leveraging your assets, which include people, skills, resources, organizations and networks. When you can demonstrate some success or achieve impact with what you already have, you can then convince others to help you scale.
Small change is easy. Big change is hard. To have meaningful impact on a problem, you need long-term thinking. That means thinking about how solutions can last, how ventures can sustain, and how outcomes can scale. This is what differentiates short-term projects from long-lasting ventures.