Change Chatter: Social Entrepreneurship and Gen Y


A social entrepreneur identifies and solves social problems on a large scale. Just as business entrepreneurs create and transform whole industries, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, invent and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that create social value.

Unlike traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs primarily seek to generate “social value” rather than profits. And unlike the majority of non-profit organizations, their work is targeted not only towards immediate, small-scale effects, but sweeping, long-term change.

The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

Identifying and solving large-scale social problems requires a committed person with a vision and determination to persist in the face of daunting odds. Ultimately, social entrepreneurs are driven to produce measurable impact by opening up new pathways for the marginalized and disadvantaged, and unlocking society’s full potential to effect social change.

Below is a post from Nick Fellers author of The Daily Nuggets Blog.

I came across his blog through the Stanford Network and could not resist sharing! His view on this topic as it relates to Gen Y and “change chatter” provides a great summation of what most of us are thinking and feeling.

The past two decades have seen an explosion of entrepreneurship and a healthy competition in the social sector, which has discovered what the business sector learned from the railroad, the stock market and the digital revolution: Nothing is as powerful as a big new idea if it is in the hands of a first class entrepreneur.

This revolution is fundamentally changing the way society organizes itself and the way we approach social problems.

Talking about social entrepreneurship in our sector is like talking about clean energy in the energy sector… tons of chatter and conceptually, not new. Up until recently I’ve dismissed much of the conversation as ‘change chatter’.

To be clear, I LOVE the concept of social entrepreneurship… the idea of people thinking creatively and with an entrepreneurial attitude about changing the world! I actually feared (and maybe still do) that all the hype will elevate to a level of buzzword jargon (and maybe it has).

Lately, I have a new perspective on ‘change chatter’. And this perspective is that it IS our future. Social entrepreneurship (esp the young SE’s) will define or re-define the ‘change sector’. It will probably continue to wash away traditional lines of not-for-profit and for-profit and continue to organize around ‘for-impact’ or any other jargon – I’m open.

Last summer I had a chance to be with Robert Egger in New York. He shared a narrative about how the activism of the 60’s and 70’s gave rise to today’s nonprofit sector. The passion that was seen in the form of protests and marches matured to result in much of the nonprofit sector growth in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

This got me thinking about all this ‘social entrepreneur’ stuff and ‘change chatter’. From Ashoka to David Bornstein’s book to the Stanford Innovation Social Review… a lot of stuff. From what we, at The Suddes Group, are seeing in-the-field there is CLEARLY a swell from those in their 20’s.

Literally, out of nowhere, we’ve had a number of new young-social-entrepreneur-movement-type-orgs pop up on our radar – either they’ve attended boot camp or we’ve met up with them in the field.

As a side note, if you ever get to hang out with any of these orgs or any other Gen Y social entrepreneurial orgs – do it. Incredible energy, passion, enthusiasm. Pretty damn refreshing.

It’s cool to think about the nonprofit sector as we know it today and think about the DNA injected from the chatter of the 60’s and 70’s and then think about what it will or won’t be in 10-15 years.

Who cares how one defines ‘social entrepreneurship’? I’m up for the downstream effect of the ‘chatter’. Here comes a generation that only knows of the world as flat and one that isn’t caught up on for-profit or not-for-profit but going at the goal to save lives, change lives and impact lives in the best possible way…. That simply by using the word ‘entrepreneurship’ entertains an entirely new vocabulary and way of thinking.

They’ve already given a cache to the movement. In and of itself, that is an achievement. We have two new Notre Dame grads working with us The Suddes Group. When I came on board ten years ago (also out of ND) people seemed to look at me with pity for ‘wanting to spend my life with charities’. Pat and Mark – they’re like rock stars – jumping into the new world of social entrepreneurship!



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