Are you a student or teacher in your field? For social entrepreneurs there can be great value in being both, even simultaneously.
In the past month, I have had the unique opportunity to engage as a speaker, attendee, pitch judge, pitch participant, interviewer, interviewee, mentor, and mentee–and all within the realm of social entrepreneurship. It has been incredible. And, it has provided a unique lense to see synchronicity in these seemingly divergent roles.
Social Entrepreneurs are Novices and Experts
Social entrepreneurship as a whole is a kind of dance between being a novice and expert. With (often) low barriers to entry and high turnover, it’s common to two-step into, out of, and around the space. Add to that experience in specific areas of impact, measurement, traction of customers, raising funds, and/or surviving pitfalls—and a social entrepreneur is recognized for being able to share her valuable learned insight in the space. However, even a slight pivot to serve another market or need and the social entrepreneur is back in the familiar role of novice–humbly seeking expertise, financial backing, and searching for ways to turn a particular idea into reality.
This back and forth is actually a great thing. It keeps social entrepreneurs (and those who serve them) on their toes to constantly be learning and sharing, can instill a sense of humility, and can act as a key equalizer in bringing new and seasoned entrepreneurs to the same table.
I learned so much by pitching to VC’s as a social enterprise and then gained clarity of what an investor looks for when I judged social entrepreneur pitches. I was able to pass on these perspectives with the genuine empathy of having been on both sides, when I mentored aspiring social entrepreneurs as they prepared to pitch their social enterprise startup ideas. Each role not only provided ways to understand and empathize with different vantage points—each contributed to thinking bigger about the work and vision for Innov8social.
Social Entrepreneurs are Problemsolvers First
This ability to ‘toggle’ between the roles of receiving and sharing knowledge is particularly key in social entrepreneurship because it focuses our attention not on who we are, but what we are trying to solve. Beyond aspects such as legal structure and business models, social enterprises are unique because they pursue dual goals of creating impact and generating revenue. These dual goals, in turn, involve a multitude of variables. And like solving for x and y in Algebra, we are forced to shift focus from who we are to how we can most effectively problemsolve.
Be a Teacher, Student….and Keep Moving Forward
This is the synchronicity of being both teacher and student. Stepping between the roles lets us loosen our sense of self and ego to recognize that problem identification and problem-solving come from anywhere, and everywhere. It lets us focus on educating ourselves on what we don’t know, and then sharing that experience with those addressing the problem through different lenses. The growth of social entrepreneurship depends on its practitioners as receiving and sharing in equal parts. We must be teachers, be students, rinse and repeat.
Our role is to honor our experience in the space as we honor the experience of others, to share what we learn, to ask for help, and above all—to keep moving forward.
A Photo Recap From the Past Month