Social entrepreneurs are starting new organizations that combine best management practices with a socio-ecological purpose. They are expanding the boundaries of what it means to do business and innovating new organizational structures to respond to the needs and demands of an aching society.
Working with social entrepreneurs in Mexico is a very rewarding aspect of my work. My role at the Universidad del Medio Ambiente (or University of the Environment) in central Mexico is to create learning environments and facilitate processes that support the development of their projects as well as help in the development of these entrepreneurs as leaders.
Last Friday, I was part of an event celebrating the completion of the year-long environmental entrepreneurs program there. The projects this group of Mexican social entrepreneurs developed this year included organic urban agriculture methods, ride sharing to address traffic in Mexico city, environmental education consulting, and a solar energy provider among others.
The success of a social entrepreneur depends on his or her ability to develop a clear and systemic mission and vision, a sound strategy, and a feasible business model that creates financial viability while fulfilling a social and environmental purpose. Through reflective practice and coaching, our social entrepreneurs refine their presentation skills and hone their message, helping them succinctly and powerfully articulate their value proposition—or the intersection between their passion and the social need being addressed.
These skills are crucial. But even with these skills, a social entrepreneur has to face all kinds of obstacles that may limit his or her ability to compete in the marketplace.
An exclusive focus on results will lead us to only appreciate those social entrepreneurs whose projects succeed according to the current rules of the game. A deeper look at the role of social entrepreneurs, however, allows us to appreciate their role as social change agents beyond their enterprises.
Social entrepreneurs embody a new kind of leadership—leadership that bridges vision with action and values with results; leadership that goes beyond “leading others” and starts with “leading the self.” This type of leadership challenges the ego because what matters most is not theira personal sense of achievement, but an ability to contribute positively to society.
In the process of supporting social entrepreneurs, I have come to appreciate their courage and commitment to attempt what, in the past, was considered impossible or questionable: do well by doing good.
The aspect that I cherish the most is the sense that, together, this community of social entrepreneurs and its support network are willing to try with all their hearts to be congruent, to live their values, and to walk their talk. From this perspective, one can say that social entrepreneurs are exploring ways of being more fully human.