Social entrepreneurs of both sexes are imperfect beings -- with imperfect answers - acting on imperfect information -- for causes with imperfect results. The work can be isolating, tiring, lonely.
We are bruised by long hours, stress, constant disappointment and the outsized stubbornness of social problems. We are bruised by untended family connections and lost friendships.
We feel small even as our hearts are enlarged by the humanity of our work. It's a lousy trade-off.
In How-To Be An Imperfect Woman Of Change, women of uncommon wisdom offer up survival balm for social entrepreneurs.
Rajasvini "Vini" Bhansali, CEO of IDEX, reminds us, "Women, especially women of color and immigrant women, feel like they must hold it all together." For men, there is the isolating self-image of the lone (and lonely) decision-maker at the hierarchical top of a social enterprise.
No one has all the answers. Some days we aren't even asking the right questions. Let's admit it.
- If your inner voices are echoing your negative insecurities, tell them to shut up.
- Speak up. It's not bragging or boasting to know something useful or important, and say so.
- Don't isolate yourself. There is strength in numbers, and comfort in solidarity.
- Martyrdom is stupid. You have to pay attention to your personal safety and economic well-being.
- At some level, we are all imposters. Accept your failings, but don't fail to give value to your life.
The muckraking journalist I. F. Stone told us in the Sixties: "If you expect to see the final results of your work, you simply have not asked a big enough question."
In our time, and no less idealistically, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, CEO of Akili Dada in Kenya, asks, "Where does your life bring the most value to the world?"
Woman or Man, social change work is not about you being perfect. It's about you making a difference.