It seems strange yet so befitting that I sit down to write this blog months after I heard an inspiring talk on social enterprise support programmes in US and Echoing Green By John Walker at my university. I walked in the room the lecture was supposed to take in which looked like somebody had a really wild tutorial in there (IRN BRU and crisps everywhere). I was the only there and so instead of heading off downstairs to grab coffee I started cleaning up because I as horrified John might come in. Luckily, he walked in half way through my frantic cleaning and I had the privilege of having a small private chat with John before other students arrived for the talk. John, an accomplished Scot now working in New York also happened to be working alongside Lara Galinsky, a board chair of Startingbloc. Echoing Green is based in New York and I am in New York as an attendee of Starting Bloc New York class 2011. Small world of social enterprise, eh?
He spoke about the situation of venture capital funds and how Echoing Green fits into the place. The most interesting part of his talk was about some of the Echoing Green fellows and their inspirational start-ups. I have mentioned them so many times to different people- perhaps more than I have ever mentioned any start-up. The reason because there is a faint trend in Echoing Green finalists- ingenious brilliance with the simplicity of using existing technology to create social impact. My favourite example that he gave was that of Heart Bread Kitchen, a start-up that got immigrant women who could not speak English doing what they did best- baking; sold these and used the profit to fund their courses for learning English. Ingenious. It is so simple if you think about it but the impact is amazing and because of this even the City Council got involved. Another brilliant start-up was PHARMA SECURE. This start-up allows consumers to check whether a medical drug is authentic or not by sending a text message with the code that is imprinted on it. This is so phenomenal because the India passed a legislation that requires pharmaceutical companies/suppliers to have these codes.
John spoke about how the UK was paving the way forward in legislating for supporting social enterprises and incubating entrepreneurial talent. This gave me alot of pride. Fast forward a month and after the glorious Startingbloc New York ’11 experience, I sat on the plane and read Echoing Green’s Lara Galinsky’s co-written Work on Purpose in one go. The whole point of the book was:
Head + Heart = Hustle
and I would like to say, Social Entrepreneurship = meaningful hustle = Work on Purpose.
For those who haven’t read it yet, please do read it. I had the pleasure of meeting Lara at Startingbloc and I wish I had met her after reading Work on Purpose to talk about it. Three things struck me most about John’s talk and Work on Purpose:
1- The importance of listening to beat of your heart and following your passion
The satisfaction you get from your work, your life is never the same unless your values and dreams are aligned with your work. We often undervalue satisfaction when we tell others, ‘It sounds great but you’ll have to work really hard and you might end up with less money and more work than you would get in a corporate job…’. What about the happiness you get from working on purpose? Does it give you more non-monetary benefit than the ‘less hours- more pay’ formula? Work on Purpose shows different people, Echoing green fellows and Cheryl Dorsey, the President of Echoing Green. I loved Cheryl’s story because John had mentioned what a great leader and inspirational woman she was. And then I read Work on Purpose and you can just tell reading her story, what an amazing woman she would be to work with and I hope I do get a chance to meet her one day.
2- Using existing systems and technology to bring measurable social impact
While some people can innovate new products, for most change-makers re-inventing the wheel isn’t an option. Echoing Green fellows seem to have one thing in common: Using existing technology to drive social impact. Take the example of PHARMA SECURE. They use SMS and printed codes to make a great impact on ensuring people are buying authentic drugs rather than sub-standard and false drugs.
3- The route is varied but the end is clear
There is a fear in anspiring social entrepreneurs like me that I will be alone in 5 years time trying to make a difference but nobody in my community will understand what I’m trying to do. I’m fearful that I don’t have enough experience to have my own business. From startingbloc to oxfordjam to entrepreneurial exchange, every single conference/event I have been to I have been told one thing- Be Bold and go for it. What is the worst that can happen? Therefore, the route is varied to become a social entrepreneur but we all share similar values- the desire to make create social impact and help others achieve the same.
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”