Sunday, March 06, 2005

Met with Pamela Hartigan, the head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, on Friday afternoon, after the end of the Global Philanthropy Forum at Stanford. Pamela's job is to find top social entrepreneurs around the world and bring them together at two annual events: the Schwab Foundation's Global Social Entrepreneurship Summit and the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

This is my one chance a year to get Pamela one on one, since the events are so busy for her. We covered a lot of ground, but the one point I wanted to mention was Pamela's problem with the concept of "building the field." This caused me a bit of concern, since I thought that was something important.

Her point is that there is no field of social entrepreneurship like there is a field of medicine, law, engineering or science. Social entrepreneurship is an approach to problem solving, not a field where you can go to school to learn to be a social entrepreneur. The doctor who becomes a successful social entrepreneur gets there by being innovative in her thinking and coming up with original and bold solutions: usually in her field of medicine.

We talked about how Silicon Valley is a great place to be a regular entrepreneur, but how most people here aren't entrepreneurs. However, the Valley ecosystem is great for entrepreneurs, because there are systems for spotting and supporting them.

Our goals to promote social entrepreneurship are similar: to spot and support social entrepreneurs to help them on their entrepreneurial mission. And organizations like Schwab (and Skoll, and Ashoka, and Avina) are there to help build the movement and assist SEs in making bigger impact.

An idea worth chewing on: how does this distinction drive what we do to build the movement?

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