THE BLOG
02/28/2013 02:08 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2013

Ready to Change the World? Not So Fast

Veteran social entrepreneurs are unequivocally telling new recruits to social and economic justice careers to focus on personal mastery of basic life skills before "helping others."

In a newly-released video from iOnPoverty, six seasoned social change leaders from Africa and the United States speak out about personal growth as a critical, non-negotiable tool in the social entrepreneur's toolkit.

Social entrepreneurship is undeniably an adventure, an elixir, an exhilarating rush... a one-person fountain of youth. Well and good, but a social change career is not intended as personal therapy, these social change experts are warning social change novices.

"Be prepared to transform yourself without attempting to transform others to be like you," advises Tiffany Persons, CEO of Shine on Sierra Leone. Repeating the advice given airline passengers, Keely Stevenson, CEO of Bamboo Finance USA (global impact investment fund) cautions, "Fix your own oxygen mask first."

"You don't add value to the world by being... so miserable that the people who you purport to help would rather you were not in their lives," counsels Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, CEO, of Akili Dada (girls' leadership program in Kenya).

Early in your social change career focus on determining what you are good at and who you are as a person. As Chid Liberty, CEO of Liberty and Justice (textile manufacturer in Liberia), reports of himself, "I spend a lot of time working to understand my place in the world."

"Social involvement helps us enter new worlds. We may build on our existing values and knowledge, but we also develop new priorities, gain new skills, meet new people, hear and heed new stories," notes Paul Rogat Loeb in Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times.

To "enter new worlds" with greater social impact and to fully leverage the privilege of working in partnership with local communities, iOnPoverty social entrepreneurs agree:

  • take care of your personal physical life needs
  • develop your interpersonal skills -- especially good listenership
  • be humble.

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