THE BLOG

Social Enterprise 4.0 Is About Enlightened Self-Interest

12/12/2012 04:31 pm ET | Updated Feb 11, 2013
  • Ben Mangan Executive Director + Lecturer of Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership at UC Berkeley

Along with my great colleague Todd Fitch, I help advise a new club on the UC Berkeley campus called Enactus (part of a larger network nationwide) that encourages students to use business and analytical skills to deepen the impact of nonprofits near campus. Over the past year, as this chapter has come to life, I've reflected on how this group of Cal students represents a few defining characteristics of Social Enterprise 4.0 (and I call it 4.0 based on my own read of how the field has grown).

First and foremost, this group confirms something Ashoka founder Bill Drayton keenly observes -- social enterprise isn't a standalone discipline anymore. These incredibly talented students, most of whom will be business, economics and engineering majors, have enormous pressure to join the clubs on campus that will help them land plum jobs at places like Google or Bain. Despite this pressure, talented young people are making strategic, robust social and economic change a part of their DNA -- not a trivial side activity to pad resumes.

Working with Cal's Enactus leaders I have come to see that there's no noblesse oblige or sense of old-fashioned "charity" driving their involvement as volunteers. Instead, their sparked by a promising brand of enlightened self-interest. Many within next generation of civic and business leadership, well reflected by these students, know that their economic fates are tied something greater than their personal balance sheets.

The purists among us may be wrinkling their noses as they read this. But this is a good thing -- altruism and virtue are not mutually exclusive from self-interest. In fact, once people truly believe that their fate is tied to driving positive change around them, they work much harder to ensure involvement in something like Enactus is as robust and strategic as any business pursuits. This can lead to virtuous cycles of creation and progress.

I have also observed that social enterprise is changing and improving far more quickly than it used to -- this is another powerful, positive trend. I am not a big fan of what I call the "lionization" approach to social entrepreneurship, which holds up social change agents as deified saviors. Celebrating the work of social change and recognizing the value of this leadership is important, but it can stand in the way of bringing everyone along as change agents.

The latest iteration of social enterprise will lead to faster rates of deep social impact, and to an increase in the ways talented people can make structured contributions to social and economic change.

For a far more expert, and deeper dive into the future of social entrepreneurship, have a look at Bill Drayton's five predictions for the future of social entrepreneurship:

I would love to hear what people think -- and this includes those of you who think I'm full of it.

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