“Opinions, news and inter-views”

Over the past few weeks things have been pretty busy on the interview front. There have also been a number of news articles reporting the use of FrontlineSMS in the Nigerian elections, and a couple of podcasts on kiwanja’s work. I regularly post details on the News section of the site, but thought it would be worth bringing them all together in a blog entry. So, if you’re interested in what’s been going on recently feel free to browse through the following links:

Nokia New Horizons Magazine: Article on kiwanja’s appropriate technology focus
African Signals: A podcasted interview with the man behind the “White African” blog
Pambazuka News: The story behind FrontlineSMS and the Nigerian elections
WSIS: FrontlineSMS featured as “ICT Success Story of the Month”
BBC News: FrontlineSMS used to monitor the Nigerian elections
BBC Digital Planet: Podcast of a radio interview on the BBC World Service
Mongabay.com: Interview about technology use in conservation and development
Net Tuesday: Podcasted interview at this San Francisco technology event

Why I’m not a social entrepreneur

A few years ago, back during my university days, I was asked to write an essay on ‘sustainable development‘ and what the term actually meant. The general consensus seemed to be that it meant very little, not because the rationale behind the term wasn’t a compelling one, but because it was being so widely misused that it had become pretty-much meaningless.

I feel the same might be happening today with the term ‘social entrepreneur‘. So many people claim to be one, and so many universities are ‘teaching’ people how to become one, the term is becoming blurred, almost fashion-statement-like.

For a start, I don’t think anyone can just become a social entrepreneur by simply going through a process. Sure, people can learn the mechanics of social entrepreneurship – business models, sustainability, global (and local) social issues, fundraising and so on – but that’s it. You have to earn the title, not learn it. Having an honours degree in social entrepreneurship – or whatever it might be – doesn’t automatically make you one.

Personally I have never considered myself a social entrepreneur, even though my poster at Stanford says that I am. To make things worse, I’m not much of a ‘title’ person, either. I don’t find it helpful putting people into neat little boxes, but that seems to be how things work these days. If other people want to put me into the ‘social entrepreneur’ box then they’re free to do so, but I won’t be doing it myself.

There are many reasons why I don’t think I belong there – too many to list in a blog entry without it becoming long and tedious. But perhaps the main one is this: I don’t believe that I, Ken Banks, am an agent for social change. I am comfortable taking a support role, helping empower other people to become agents of social change.

And if that means I’m not a social entrepreneur then I, for one, have no problem with that.