It’s Time for a New Narrative in Social Enterprise

Have you ever come across a leader in social enterprise and wanted to be just like them? That’s me all of the time. I drive myself crazy investigating how these mere mortals(?) can so successfully advance a cause they’re so passionate about.

One of these unhealthy rituals used to be chain watching Jonathan Lewis’s video interviews on Café Impact. Jonathan would invite impressive social innovators into a studio, and ask them about their career path and wisdom they’ve gained along the way.

I devoured incredible stories of beating the odds, journeys from rock-bottom and revolutionary innovation and entrepreneurship. I scribbled notes on leaving the corporate world, disrupting the status quo, and blazing a new trail. I was building the narrative for the life I wanted. I was building a narrative for a life that wasn’t mine.

At some point, as I poured over the stories of these leaders, it occurred to me that the setting of their stories was not the same as my own.

Actually, it’s not even close. Social enterprise is no longer some fringe experiment. It’s a model used by companies with hundreds of millions in revenue. The space is no longer filled with ambitious activists and second career professionals. It’s filled with Ivy MBAs and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The goal is no longer to get started. The goal is to scale.

In this new setting, this new world of social enterprise, are the paths to success the same as they were for our current leaders? Honestly, I don’t know. But my hypothesis is this:

The success and proliferation of social enterprise has dramatically changed what a career in the space looks like, especially for young professionals.

After all, we’re the first generation who will build our careers in social enterprise. We aren’t fringe innovators. We aren’t career switchers. We’re a much larger group of skilled professionals ready to advance models that are creating a better world.

If young professionals are going to excel in social enterprise, we can’t look at past success stories to build our careers. We need to explore and make sense of the space as it currently exists. We need a new narrative for the social enterprise professional.

I’m beginning to explore this new narrative by interviewing young professionals in the social sector about their journey so far. I hope to pull together the insights gained from these interviews into a new monthly newsletter I'm launching called Mission Driven Monthly. Sign up to get a curated double espresso of insights that I plan on introducing across a series of blogs!

If you're a young professional in social enterprise and are up for sharing what you've learned so far, shoot me an email! For everyone else, I’d love to exchange thoughts, doubts and resources on this topic. Drop a comment or shoot me a tweet.

Together we can write our own narrative of success in social enterprise.