• Director Dispatches

How to be a 21st century social entrepreneur

Freelancers are some of the smartest entrepreneurs in America. But what makes entrepreneurship social, especially at a time when everyone seems to be striking out on their own?

Two great friends of mine have helped countless social entrepreneurs get their vision out into the world. Bill Drayton is a longtime mentor of mine who founded Ashoka and is literally the godfather of social entrepreneurship. Cheryl Dorsey is president of Echoing Green, a trailblazing global social venture fund.

Here’s Bill’s take:

Whenever society is stuck or could be better, it needs social entrepreneurs. Over the last decade, we’ve learned that there is one thing that’s more powerful than a big idea in the hands of a really good entrepreneur: It’s a community of entrepreneurs working together. “Collaborative entrepreneurship” is something completely new.

And this is Cheryl’s view:

**At a time when solutions are in short supply, the people who are interested in social entrepreneurship are the ones solving problems with pragmatic approaches, cross-sector collaboration and impact-driven thinking. We need more of that. **

Cheryl adds that the social entrepreneurs building successful 21st century institutions “have baked into the cake the kind of feedback loops that keep you self-aware enough to see if you're no longer creating value.”

In other words, no more just barrelling ahead – you have to keep iterating and evaluating.

In a sense, social entrepreneurs are redefining the social sector in the same way that freelancers are redefining work more broadly. As Drayton says:

Instead of corporate bureaucracy, you now have fluid, open teams, and “teams of teams.” This new way of organizing completely fits in to the way social entrepreneurs organize.

How are social entrepreneurs solving problems in your community?

Sara Horowitz As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.