Saturday, May 9, 2009

May 9, 2009

The World of Social Entrepreneurship in Fresno
What a priviledge to listen to the students of Lee Ayre's social entrepreneurship class share their ideas to transform neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. Social entrepreneurship, one of 11 courses offered through the Lyles Center at Fresno State, joins Craig Scharton's class on urban entrepreneurship and Tom Jones' class on civic entrepreneurship as a hat-trick for developing change agents.

As defined by Paul Light, social entrepreneurship is "audacious social change." Social entrepreneurs seek to change "Unfortunate, but stable equilibriums that cause the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity." (Martin & Osberg) Examples: demoralizing graffiti, low graduation rates, high child mortality rates, low family incomes, high crime rates, distrust of neighbors, and chronic homelessness.

What characterizes social entrepreneurs? They are inspired, creative, action oriented, courageous and have fortitude (Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity). Social entrepreneurship combines the passion of a social mission with the business-like discipline, innovation and determination commonly associated with pioneers of new industries--think high-tech or green.

Recommended Resource
If you are interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship, pick up Forces For Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grand. This highly regarded book--The Economist hailed it as a top ten book of the year in in 2007--shifts the thinking away from building an organization to building a movement. Thanks to John Brelsford, Dan DeSantis and I recently had an opportunity to hear Heather McLeod speak at a conference in Santa Barbara. Her theme of blending the savvy of best business practicies with a passion for strategic philanthropy is potent. Her points: 1) Advocate and serve, 2) Make markets work, 3) Inspire evangelists, 4) Nurture nonprofit networks, 5) Master the art of adaptation and 6) Share Leadership.

Thank you, Lee! As a civic, social and urban entrepreneur all rolled up together, your impact on our community has been extraordinary. Not only have you tackled tough infrastructure issues, the role you have played in the Human Investment Initiative has had immeasurable impact. Plus, you are building a pipeline for the future.

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