Blogger creates trouble!
Carl's foundation is the foundation for entrepreneurship. Carl started off with a spirited advocacy for the power of entrepreneurship, touching on the vision of Ewing Kauffman, the founder of his foundation. He noted that the post-war predictions were that economic growth would come from large corporations, and that the era of the entrepreneur was over. Carl went to explain how much this is now the era of the entrepreneur, with half of the new jobs in the U.S. created by new ventures.
Carl covered the Foundation's efforts to foster entrepreneurship in kids (quite successful by his report). A really exciting venture is the creation of a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) to address the need of charter schools for viable buildings for their schools. He's also a big fan of of Teach for America.
So far so good. Carl then took the social sector to task for its lack of scale. He used the many successful corporations who have become household names and/or hit a billion dollars in revenues. He challenged us to name a new (formed in the last 10 or 20 years) nonprofit Google, or Microsoft or YouTube. People came up with a mix of names, but Carl didn't go for many (Habitat and Teach for America he did agree to).
Of course, I'm thinking that just maybe this isn't a fair way to measure the social sector. After all, small businesses generate a whole bunch of those great jobs created by entrepreneurial energy, and they rarely scale. And, the social sector isn't structured by its nature to encourage scale like the for-profit sector.
Carl concluded with a pitch for true charity, and talked about the the value of pure philanthropic motive.
Now, I was one of the many people in the audience who didn't see much room for the social enterprisers in the mostly binary world of Carl's speech (strong for-profits and traditional charities). Most social entrepreneurs don't think of themselves as charities. Of course, there an awful lot of charities who end up using the term social entrepreneur as a hook to ask for grants, so I understand why Carl could be critical of the concept.
I got up and asked the question about the middle ground where most of the audience was playing: not traditional business or charity, but social mission ventures with lots of earned income.
Carl was pretty annoyed, and simply said that I hadn't been listening to his speech. Actually, I felt like I had been listening pretty closely, and was hoping for a more analytical or reasoned response. And, I've had twenty attendees come up and thank me for challenging this point, because they felt the question was crucial.
We knew that Carl would be a thought-provoking speaker, and would challenge the world views of the attendees. We weren't disappointed!