03/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Six Billion Reasons To Get Out of Bed Each Day

With all the bad news about, you may feel like pulling the covers up over your head and waiting until it's over. That thought has certainly crossed my mind.

But if we do that, we'll miss a huge opportunity: People around the world are sitting on the edges of their seats, hoping that we'll catch the wave that may just help save us all.

I'm talking about social entrepreneurship. It's not a new idea. But it's an idea whose time has definitely come.

What is social entrepreneurship? It's about applying the approaches and spirit of the entrepreneur - things like innovation, leadership, tenacity, risk-taking, and vision - to help drive social change. Rather than focusing on making money, social entrepreneurs are driven to achieve economic and social goals - like helping people start small businesses and secure access to health care, education, and clean water.

The Grameen Bank of Bangladesh is probably the best-known example of social enterprise in action. In 1976, Professor Muhammad Yunus realized that a loan of just $27 could help the poor start the small businesses that would allow them to provide for their families - a practice known as microfinance. Today, the bank provides more than six million poor families with loans, savings, insurance, and other services. The bank is fully owned by its clients and is a model for microfinance institutions around the world. (As you may know, Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for the simple insight that helped start a revolution in lending.)

This brand-new video is a great introduction to social entrepreneurship (produced by the Skoll Foundation):

One of the best parts of social entrepreneurship is that it's a "win-win" idea: Helping other people while finding the meaning we're longing for in our own careers. That's what New Radicals are all about - and we welcome social entrepreneurs under our broad umbrella - men and women like you and me who are discovering how to apply the skills acquired in our careers to the world's greatest challenges. (For more about the New Radicals, please see archived articles.)

I'll be writing about social entrepreneurs in the coming weeks. About an organization that is the centerpiece of the emerging infrastructure that supports this work. About a conference that will take place in March at Oxford University, and how you can observe sessions and read about what's going on in real time. I'll also talk to social entrepreneurs who are preparing to go to the conference - either as speakers or delegates -- and share their thoughts with you. And I'll report on my experiences at the conference, including the men and women I met that I think you might be interested in hearing about.

Watch for inspiring stories about creative new ideas in this emerging field. Plus practical information that can help people like us find our way into this work. Help us feel connected to the billions of people around the world (and, yes, here at home) who need our ingenuity and expertise to help them climb out of poverty. And make us feel really, really glad that we got out of bed to check in on how the world is doing today.

Please share your experiences with social entrepreneurship, and your thoughts on this approach to changing the world, by commenting below. As always, I invite you to email me directly at But don't be shy: the more we tell each other about our lives and our hopes, the more we will feel connected and inspired.