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Social Business is Shifting the Economic Landscape — Here Are 5 Simple Ways You Can Be Part of Shaping It

Good news is always welcome, but there are a few occasions when it is especially appreciated. Now is one of those times. Despite big questions about the wellbeing of our society, we can glimpse a silver lining. Our economic terrain has shifted. Social Business is on the horizon.

Hundreds of recent studies point to “the rise of social enterprise”. In a World Economic Forum piece, Thompson Reuters CEO Antonio Zappulla notes “profit with purpose is set to become the new norm.” The 2019 Deloitte Millennial report reinforces this. Today, organizations that do good for society are an expectation — not an exception. Go one step further and you are right into social business: profit FOR purpose.

It could be that this is not news to you, yet we’ll maintain that it is, indeed, good news! Why? It’s an opportunity for you to make a difference.

To help you take advantage of the opportunity, we’ve put together actions that we have seen work time and again. Whether it’s to get started tackling a problem or to move past a hurdle that’s kept you stuck, here are five simple steps you can take to help drive solutions in your community:

  1. Start small

When young people and aspiring entrepreneurs ask Professor Yunus for advice about problem-solving, a favorite response is simple: start small. He founded the first microcredit institution and bank for the poor with $27 and a group of 5 poor women. Starting small allows you to know a problem more intimately, and deepen your understanding of the solutions needed. You can see other examples in action right now of social business entrepreneurs achieving meaningful differences by applying this bit of wisdom.

2. Fall in love with your problem, not your solution

USAID Chief Innovation Officer Ann-Mei Chang recently built on the acclaimed “Lean Startup” model, adapting it to help people and organizations “radically innovate for greater social good”. She introduces the approach with this bit of advice: do not fall in love with the solutions you imagine, or even start to build. Instead, make the problem the focus. The more you care about the problem, the less difficult it will be to let go when, as you test your dream solutions, you learn that they may not be the thing that is needed most.

3. Challenge your paradigm

Changing the prevailing system (in this case, a capitalist landscape where 1% win and 99% lose) requires that we change our views about how the system should work. For instance, when Harvard students walked out of an economics course because it reinforced a paradigm of mass social injustice and environmental degradation (the economy of the 20th century).

How do you challenge an existing paradigm though? replace it with something new. A really powerful one for you to start with: no dividends. A principle of social business, Professor Yunus advocates that as soon as shareholders enter the game, the number one goal has to be making money and solving a problem takes second place.

4. Stand on the shoulders of giants

Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz advises readers with one of the greatest lessons she learned: to “stand on the shoulders of giants”. Making a lasting difference for the good of your community isn’t about reinventing the wheel — it’s about crafting an alternative, building on that which has worked, letting go of that which does not. That process will go much faster and result in something stronger if you apply the practices of people who have made tried and tested before you. Read their books, listen to their Talks, attend their conferences, and take action with others committed to building on their solutions.

5. Embrace the aphorism “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot, together, we can do great things” — Mother Teresa

Assume you don’t have all the answers, and remember that you cannot do everything on your own. Being a hero isn’t the game. Helping one another is. No matter where you are — in an organization, in school, venturing with your own grassroots effort — you have a global landscape that is encouraging social business intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship; you have skills that are needed; and, whether you realize it yet, you really do have others who legitimately want to help you achieve the solutions you have in mind.

If applying the above steps interests you, let us know. As a YSH team and a part of the global social business family, part of our aim is to help you connect with a network of people motivated to shift the landscape too. Get started — we believe YOU can make the difference.