Posts Tagged ‘social entrepreneurs’

Using market forces to create social value

This week I wanted to share one of the many compelling stories from Beverly Schwartz’s “Rippling,” featuring a “changemaker” who uses market forces to create social value. “Far different from corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, these partnerships create a hybrid adaptation that establishes a profitable business for the sole purpose of supporting, fueling growth, and sustaining a social purpose,” says Schwartz.

Profit isn’t a dirty word
Schwartz adds  “profit is not a dirty word—if profits are recycled back into the business or used to sustain or increase employment or wages and provide access to opportunities for those who are marginalized, impoverished, or in temporary need.” The following is one of the social entrepreneurs who illustrate how to use market forces to create a ripple effect in her community’s pond.

Finding opportunities within the problem
Albina Ruiz is building a community-based solid waste management system that plays an important role in improving sanitation and health conditions in Peru and other countries in Latin America. Whenever children learn more about cleanliness it is always positive. Every stage of the waste management cycle creates employment and income, integrating business and social value throughout the entire process. Ruiz admits she was obsessed with the trash that seemed to overwhelm Lima. Heaps of trash were everywhere in the city streets, rivers and vacant lots.

Trash equals jobs
Albina realized the garbage represented people. For every piece of trash discarded there was a person behind it and in front of it. Where everyone, including the union, saw trash, she saw an opportunity to create jobs, improve public health and improve the environment.

• Albina designed a new type of small tricycle truck that could fit in the narrow, hilly streets and around the garbage blocking the roads.

• She enlisted households within the slums to become paid recyclers who would sort the organics for animals as well as recyclables like bottles, iron scraps, paper, plastic and anything else they could reuse.

• She formed an association of these local changemakers who would partner with the tricycle trash collectors and coincide with the public campaign that encouraged residents to wait for these small trucks to pick up their trash rather than throw it in the streets. Incredible and obvious ripple effects result from Albina’s efforts.

Furthermore, some of her recyclers now make handcrafted products from the recycled items and sell them to high-end stores. “Albina’s primary tool is employment, and she uses it by organizing the recylcers into income-generating micro-enterprises, a strategy built into every state of the waste management cycle,” says Schwartz.

If you’d like to learn more about other social entrepreneurs and how they developed a sustainable business model, join us on July 11 at 11 a.m. CST for our monthly author interview. Visit to register.

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What qualities do leading changemakers possess?

If your nonprofit business model is unsustainable, outdated or simply not making the difference you projected, gather inspiration and ideas from this author’s numerous examples gleaned from all over the world.

Find out why they all point to five consistent principles:

restructure industry norms
change market dynamics
use market forces to create social value
advance full citizenship
cultivate empathy

Beverly Schwartz’s new book, Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World, reads like a compelling story in each chapter while arming you with a roadmap for creating your own path to systemic change. Few books motivate you to step back and rethink your business model. Schwartz’s featured “changemakers” embody a new call to action: think differently and act accordingly.

I asked Schwartz about the qualities of these social entrepreneurs and here’s what she said in an excerpt of our interview:

CausePlanet: It’s remarkable how many of the social entrepreneurs possess little or no expertise in areas we as nonprofit leaders would deem essential. Instead, they demonstrate an even more critical set of skills, such as the inability to accept things the way they are or a predisposition for reframing old thinking or defying convention. What have you found to be the most consistent among these vital traits in changemakers?

Schwartz: Hands down, it is the ability of social entrepreneurs to have faith in themselves and to always see problems in terms of creative and new solutions. They recognize a problem and understand its nuances intimately, but don’t get caught in its intricacies. They are laser focused on not only working with, but being a part of the community they are serving, and persistence (with a dash or two of stubbornness) can always be found in abundance.

CausePlanet subscribers: Register for our author interview with Schwartz on July 11 at 11 a.m. CST.

See also:

The Search for Social Entrepreneurship

Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World

The Search for Social Entrepreneurship



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The lost and found: Social entrepreneurship

The Search for Social Entrepreneurship examines the power of social entrepreneurship to accomplish large-scale systemic change within the nonprofit sector. Author Paul C. Light takes on the behemoth task of synthesizing differing views and research outcomes to arrive at a consensus so entrepreneurialism can be studied and replicated for the greater good.

Despite the fact that absolute certainty about what constitutes a highly entrepreneurial organization is elusive, Light successfully teases out useful similarities among researchers’ findings. He does so by identifying four basic components of social entrepreneurialism. In the end, the reader gains a collective view of what highly entrepreneurial organizations look like and how they behave.

Below is an excerpt from a delightful Q & A we had with author Paul Light in our March Page to Practice™:

CausePlanet: In your book you conclude that highly socially entrepreneurial organizations portray internal practices such as lower emphasis on strategic planning and undiversified revenue streams. These descriptors seem antithetical to highly performing organizations that have a diversified funding base and good planning systems in place. How would you turn these conclusions into instructive guidance for aspiring entrepreneurial organizations?

Light: It’s the founder’s syndrome we often talk about. Once the entrepreneur has the idea, why should he, she, or they look for input from inside or outside the organization? They have THE idea after all. They also have less interest in strong governance, I think. The board exists to serve the idea—I’m a big believer in strong boards, but agree that micro-management is off limits. But an occasional conversation about what the entrepreneur might do better is strictly required. So is the social exploring I talked about earlier in this interview. The more diversity in this picture, the better. In fact, the latest research suggests that “collaborative creativity” by diverse groups produces more breakthroughs than “garage innovation” by lone wolves. And it is more effective in reducing dead-ends. In baseball terms, collaborative teams produce more hits, extra bases, runs, and homeruns (“going yard” as Detroit Tigers fans like me call it), and they also produce fewer strikeouts and errors.

CausePlanet: What advice do you have for nonprofit leaders who would like to hire more entrepreneurial staff members or train the team they have? What characteristics should they be looking for or trying to develop?

Light: Creativity is the key, I think. Once you find someone with faith, look for creativity, inspiration, passion, and hope (which I view as a deep form of optimism—we all have optimism at some level, whether about that dinner we just put in the oven (or microwave in my case), the movie we’re about to watch, our favorite sports team, or the opera. But hope is something more durable—it resides in our being, a sense that what we are doing will add up somehow to a significant change in the world.

Can we teach people to be more creative? Absolutely. Set aside some training dollars for your team to do just about anything that stirs their imagination—a cooking class, pottery workshop, a yoga class (though I rather prefer an elliptical myself), a painting course, you name it. Too much of our training is tightly circumscribed—accountants take accounting classes (and we don’t want them to be creative with the numbers, but we do want them to see how those numbers are part of the creative discipline), leaders take leadership courses, etc. We can do better. Some of the best training classes for innovation involve a drawing pad and a charcoal pencil. Believe it.

Learn more about Light’s book, Search for Social Entrepreneurship, or our Page to Practice™ book summary.

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