Thursday, February 21, 2008

The New Wave: Social Entrepreneurship

As Einstein is believed to have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And while there are a few things that withstand the test of time: Classic Coke, jack-o’lanterns and New Year’s Eve at Times Square, most everything in our world is constantly changing, mutating or evolving. It is tempting to stick with policies and practices that have demonstrated some success historically, but with societal trends changing constantly, it’s a given that our relationships with animals also change over time. In order to continue to be relevant and effective, we must evolve along with the times.

Social entrepreneurship is the new revolution that provides a new vehicle for enacting strategic, positive social change. To paraphrase the management guru Peter Drucker, a social entrepreneur “always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity”- within the context of a broader social mission. As stated in Enterprising Nonprofits: A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs (J.G. Dees, J. Emerson and P. Economy), “entrepreneurs are innovative, opportunity-oriented, resourceful, value-creating change agents.” As social entrepreneurship occurs both in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, it can create a powerful unity of vision that utilizes the best of both worlds, so to speak, toward a greater goal of social change. Social enterprise, social innovation and social change theory are among the new terminologies associated with social entrepreneurship. Universities across the country are now opening centers and programs devoted to fostering the study and development of social entrepreneurship. Check out the Stanford Social Innovation Review ( for articles, interviews and discussions relating to this new movement.

It’s easy to imagine how this new philosophy of achieving a social mission could have far-reaching positive implications in the field of human-animal relationships. As humans, we often avoid change at all costs- even change that is not ostensibly negative. But by playing it safe and sticking with the tried and true, we may be looking at issues with rose-colored glasses and not maximizing our ability for success. It’s really about getting to the next level of effectiveness. In our world, the difference between getting a C for average and an A+ computes into the number of homeless companion animals; the percentage of pets receiving quality health care; the number of human-animal relationships effectively supported; the number of animal cruelty cases; the number of wildlife “culls”; the frequency of food supply crises; the percentage of animals displaced by natural disasters- you get the picture. We can rest on our laurels, or keep pushing the envelope. We can pretty much guarantee that continuing more of the same will give us more of the same; previously effective strategies will only take us so far before they start to lose their power and effectiveness.

Simply put, social entrepreneurs find new and better ways of doing things for the benefit of society. Try on the social entrepreneur hat for size this week. Instead of problems, see opportunities. How can you apply the entrepreneurial spirit to create an innovative approach to an issue of importance to you?

-Liz Clancy

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