THE BLOG
02/28/2009 08:14 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Make A Good Living (Even In A Recession)

Kevin Jones is one of the good guys.

Not the kind with the white Stetson pushed back on his head ambling into town to save the day. A modern-day hero who's leading us out of the wild west and into the new world.

Kevin is a social entrepreneur. What's that? Someone who applies the approaches and spirit of the entrepreneur - things like innovation, leadership, tenacity, risk-taking, and vision - to help drive social change. Rather than focusing exclusively on making money, these entrepreneurs are driven to achieve social goals - like helping people start small businesses and secure access to health care, education, and clean water. I wrote about social entrepreneurs last week.

Kevin co-founded Good Capital [goodcap.net], a firm that invests in social enterprises and gives them the tools and guidance they need to succeed. He's also the brains behind Social Capital Markets (SoCap), the world's first conference to bring institutional and individual investors together with social entrepreneurs. "We're bringing foundations, development agencies, and social venture funds together, to get them out of their silos and into a space where they can see what each other is doing, and how they might work together." This year, the conference happens in San Francisco on September 1 - 3. [socialcapitalmarkets.net]

And now Kevin is going to the Skoll World Forum. Held at Oxford University in March, the Forum been called "Davos for social entrepreneurs." Kevin will be part of a panel on "Innovations in Social Finance." I'll be writing about the conference [skollworldforum.com] -- including how you can observe sessions and read about what's going on in real time -- and the organization behind it, the Skoll Foundation [skollfoundation.org]

Kevin is also inspiring others to find their own way into this exciting work. He told me that there were a lot of men and women at the first SoCap conference who were looking at their careers in new ways. "People are asking if they can have a bigger impact - baby boomers, for instance, are wondering if there's something more meaningful." And what about younger people? "There are lots of registrants who were in their early thirties who are wondering whether working for Goldman Sachs or McKinsey is the only option, or if there's another way to go if you want a career in finance," he adds. He says that there are lots of emerging opportunities for people who want to work in social finance and social entrepreneurship (including a growing number of funds), and that the field is only going to expand. "From what I can see, this downturn is an opportunity," he says. "The previous way of doing business has fallen apart so catastrophically that people are incredibly open to new ideas."

Which brings me to how Kevin became a New Radical (New Radicals are people who've discovered ways to leverage their skills and put them to work on the world's greatest challenges, for more, please see archived articles). "I was a successful entrepreneur and was about to start my latest venture when my 21-year-old daughter asked me 'What's your life about, dad?'" That question sent him on a voyage of self discovery -- "I wanted to be able to answer the question in a way that was meaningful to both her and me" -- that included sitting on not-for-profit boards. Then, he did some direct service, working with Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs in Mozambique. "Both experiences were important work, and gratifying in real ways," Kevin told me. "But I came to realize that neither was a good fit for a fast-moving serial entrepreneur."

Kevin began to ask himself what his skills were. "I realized that I'm the kind of person who can get attention and attract capital and I understand business. And that I wanted to use these talents in whatever I was going to do next." Then, out of the blue, the phrase "social enterprise" appeared on his radar. It was his Eureka moment, and he hasn't looked back.

• Spirit of National Service
One of the best ways for an emerging New Radical to get experience, gain an understanding of a new sector, and discover which skills are in high demand is, as Kevin's example shows, to do some direct service. If you caught President Obama's speech to the Joint Sessions of Congress, you may have noticed his call for an expansion of voluntary service opportunities. ServiceNation is a great starting point for your search. [bethechangeinc.org and servicenation.org]

Please share your thoughts on social entrepreneurship, New Radicals, and how you might make a "good" living by commenting below. Or email me at julia@wearethenewradicals.com.

Julia Moulden's new book is called, "We Are The New Radicals, A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World." She has written speeches for North America's leaders since 1985.