An interview with High Impact Social Entrepreneurship (HISE)
expert Mike Caslin, PART TWO
An entrepreneur is anyone who undertakes a business--be it small or large; alone or with a team. He or she sees an opportunity for a product or service and then brings it to the market. I would argue that entrepreneurs are the building blocks of our economy and our society. Social entrepreneurship looks specifically to solve a social problem.
Social Enterprise is distinguished as an open-book, fully accountable answer to socio-economic-enviro gaps in the marketplace. The primary mission is not to make money; rather it is to solve a social ill. In my opinion, both social and traditional entrepreneurship add value despite their different motivations.
According to the Social Enterprise Alliance, social entrepreneurs have been somewhat ever-present in our modern society: From the monks who made and sold cheese and wine, to the philosophers and painters who developed their genius on the patronage of the elite. Today social enterprise runs the gamut--most famously including the TOMS shoe company and microfinance projects worldwide--but the field has not always been as professionalized.
Early social entrepreneurs (source)
In Part One of this article, I introduced my friend and colleague Mike Caslin, who was instrumental in creating the social entrepreneurship movement, bringing business planning and professionalism to social enterprises.
Mike defines a social entrepreneur as a business owner that understands: "the value of productive people (job creation and local economic development), economic strength (profit) and environmental stewardship (waste, water, energy resource management)." One of his biggest hurdles was helping to build NFTE into a global enterprise, before serving on the senior management team at Rising Tide Capital and leading the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network with Yana Averbukh and other experts. Today, Mike tells us about what is plans for the future are, as well as important advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
SM: Your CV is overflowing with impressive startups and projects, so what's next?
MC: These past two years, I've been blessed to team up with Babson College on promoting Social Entrepreneurship in Asia.
Today, I am also working with the Marist College Cloud Computing and Analytics Center and School of Management to launch The Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network (GCSEN).
We just ran a High Impact Social Entrepreneurship (HISE) Certification Boot Camp to share the best and most practical concepts, skills, tools to start and scale social enterprises.
GCSEN's mission is to accelerate Social Entrepreneurship in higher education through innovative programs and cloud technology services. The vision of GCSEN is to create a million member global network of faculty, administrators, practicing and aspiring social entrepreneurs, impact investors, sponsors and coaches. We believe Social Entrepreneurs are the heroes of our economy and we need a heck of a lot more of them given the shape of our world!
Mike speaking at Babson (source)
SM: Do you have any advice for young and aspiring social entrepreneurs?
MC: On a day-to-day basis, I now have three small actions that I think can increase your happiness and productivity. First, watch this motivational video to set perspective for the day. Next, spend time on spiritual reflection and focus (I listen to "Lord I need You" by Matt Maher). Last but not least, take the time to set a good action for the day--one for yourself, one for your community, and one for your own business.
Much of life involves struggle, as Victor Frankl so wisely teaches us from his survival of the death camps. As social entrepreneurs we have to find meaning in that struggle and translate it into action. Your actions can and must be outward looking and socially oriented, entrepreneurial driven and connected to many cultures and local communities to achieve high impact.
And finally: the strength of you, as the lone mustang (a heroic and at times individualistic entrepreneur seeing the world as it could be, not as it is) is actually in the herd. So it is ok--in fact, it is vital--to "herd up" with like-minded, aspirational people. For starters, come join our community.
SM: Your advice for young people is so profound and inspiring. What writers and thinkers influenced you over the years? Who is on your recommended reading list?
MC: Many of my insights into personal success and leading a meaningful life are based on a fusion of thinking over 35 years.
Readings that have been key for me are: George Gilder's Spirit of Enterprise, Hayek, Victor Frankel's Man Search for Meaning, Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Joseph Campbell's Hero With A Thousand Faces, Colonel Boyd's OODA Strategy, Storm Star of the Taos Pueblo and insights from the 70+ books of the Bible.
The insights from those readings are boosted by the pathfinding work of our mentors: like the late great Professors Jeff Timmons, Natalie Taylore and Greg Dees and entrepreneurial philanthropist Gloria Appel of The Price Institute.
Mike on the Appalachian Trail (source)
SM: Having a balance between the personal and the professional is so important. How have you been able to achieve that during your career?
MC: Let's be real clear. I'm human and flawed; quite imperfect, but thanks inspiration in the Old and New Testaments and family, I have the power to rise up after any fall. At times I have been either a rising and falling angel; surviving those down times makes for much more interesting transformational conversations I believe.
I know when I'm on my "A" game, I'm able to balance Faith, Family, Fitness and Finance. For healing and strength I often go to the woods following John Muir's advice: hiking on 4 billion + year old grounds on lands--only occupied by humans for mere centuries--humbles and centers me. I am happy to be a Section Hiker of the Appalachian Trail. For every up, there is a down; and for every down, there is an up. If you just keep stepping one foot in front of the other, striding long and striding strong, you will eventually reach an amazing summit.
Each of us has an arena to struggle in and to perform boldly and brilliantly. Each of us battles daily to keep our dreams alive. It is through these struggles that we really live, and have a verse to write in this world. Let's help each other keep writing new verses. What will your verse be?
In case you missed it, you can read Part One of this piece here.