The (Social) Entrepreneur’s Sentiment

“But who are you? What is this idea? It doesn’t fit any of the existing patterns because they were set up to serve the old idea…. “

This is Ashoka founder Bill Drayton’s description of a feeling often experience by social entrepreneurs, himself included.  I’m sharing it because it’s something you’ve probably felt, as have I.  Hearing this from a pioneer of social enterprise and knowing that it applies equally to the entrepreneurs he worked with two decades ago in India is powerful–a mix of comfort and motivation.

The second part of the quote, “…At that point, a little bit makes all the difference,” is a rallying call for baby steps and diligence.  Bill, who’s not given to hyperbole, says building Ashoka “was a nightmare” at first.  He didn’t receive funding from any institutional foundation for the first six years, splitting his time between his work at McKinsey in New York and launching Ashoka in Washington, D.C.  During the end of this period he was chosen as a MacArthur fellow, which gave him “a vaguely reputable category to fit into…for people who couldn’t understand what Ashoka was about.”

The beautiful irony of this is that Ashoka is now a badge of credibility and context for so many. More than 2,000 to be exact. In its 30 years, the enterprise has elected over 2,000 social entrepreneurs as Ashoka fellows from more than 60 countries who are creating and sharing systems that are changing their communities, countries and industries.

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