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.