Double Bottom Line

with Pamela Hawley

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Defining the social entrepreneur

Pamela Hawley

Philanthropist, Social Entrepreneur, Founder, Improv Star

Lessons Learned

Doing nonprofit work does not a social entrepreneur make.

Service and giving can take place in every moment.

Activism can be on or off line. The point is to act because you care and want to make a difference.


Lesson: Double Bottom Line with Pamela Hawley

Step #1 Starfish: Defining the social entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurs differ from nonprofits in many ways. Just because you're a nonprofit doesn't mean you're a social entrepreneur, and that is a key distinction, and here's why.

First of all, social entrepreneurs can be for-profits or nonprofits. So, definitions of social entrepreneurs, they range. I'll tell you what my definition of what social entrepreneur is, and it's important to classify it this way in order to really provide a unique space in this field that's different. We're not just renaming a current industry.

Social entrepreneurs have an incredible ability to not just serve but revolutionize the world they live in. That's a big difference. A lot of nonprofits in the past have a great heart in their serving. But they might have their personal story and they might be serving, but it might not be new or different. That's fine, and there's a place for that and that's wonderful and we need these services very much. But social entrepreneurs do two things very, very well.

Number 1 they revolutionize what's currently existing. So they take a new idea, a new concept--might be a marketplace, something new, a new way of doing something. And what they do is it's also very much married to service orientation. It has a mission. So you could be for-profit, you could be nonprofit, but you have a mission of serving.

But what's also key about it is usually my best definition is that it generates revenue. To me you should be smart enough to be able to figure out how can you generate revenue and be able to make money so that it supports your cause, not just to make money. And that could be for-profit or nonprofit. So social entrepreneurs are a very rare breed. A lot of nonprofits are nonprofit leaders. They may not have started it. Social entrepreneurs, they started it, are thinking about being mission-driven and they're also revenue driven.

So there's a starfish story out there, which I love. And it's not my story, but it's an amazing story out there about a boy who was walking along a beach and all these starfishes, these beautiful fishes, had gone up on the beach. They were basically dehydrated and they were dying. So what happened is the boy kept throwing these starfish into the ocean. But there were hundreds if not thousands of them on the beach. And the adult walking with this little boy said, "What's it going to matter? You've thrown back three starfish and there are thousands or hundreds on the beach." And the boy said, "But it matters to this one starfish."

The key on that is that we can get overwhelmed on global poverty, we can get overwhelmed by all the changes we want to see in our world. Or you can say, today, did I impact one person's life today? And if you did, that's a life well lived.

Now a key on that, which is another quick story if I can share with you, is called philanthropy at the dry cleaner's. Now the key on this, I wrote a story on this, is that I was rushing one day to work, and I took all my dry cleaning clothes and dumped them off at the counter, and I was rushing out to get to work to go do philanthropy. But the key on that was I wasn't being present, loving in the moment. I was just rushing in and running an errand. But at the end of the day, you have the ability to love every single person you come across at every moment. That is a grand call in philanthropy. Philanthropy is not giving out of money. The root word of philanthropy is the love of people.

So what we have to be careful about in our world is that often what we do is we go and just say, "I've got my job of giving, and I'm going to give back that way." Or "I've got my service opportunity: I'm volunteering this Saturday." No, service and giving take place every moment. That's why life is so exciting, because if philanthropy is about the love of people, then we need to love the taxi cab driver, the person at the dry cleaner's, the homeless person giving a smile to them. So to me philanthropy at the dry cleaner's means we need philanthropy, you need to be loving wherever you are and to serve wherever you are. And it's not just my job, a service opportunity. It's now, and now and now.

Activism is a very, very special word that continues to evolve. I think that activism can be offline, online. It's really about how a person acts to foment change. That's really the key there. And activism can be as simple as you signing a petition online with a group, let's say, like, or it can be something as joining a huge gathering in D.C. to help work on civil rights, something of that nature. So activism can be something that we can do from our computers, it can be online and virtual, it can be in masses. But the point is to take act. Act because you care, and it makes a difference.

Now it's hard sometimes to track that because you might say, "Well, how does my one signature on a petition make a difference?" But we can say that about a lot of things in life. You have to believe, you have to take action. It is making a difference.

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