John Mighton (JUMP Math), Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack (TYZE Personal Networks), and Mary Gordon (Roots of Empathy) represented Canada this past weekend in theAshoka Globalizer Summit in Stockholm, Sweden. These four social entrepreneurs were selected as part of a group whose “ready to go global” social innovations were matched with the resources they needed to bring their ideas to a worldwide audience.
Great business ideas go global every day. They rely on market mechanisms that push them to the forefront of economic markets. By contrast, no such forces are at work in the social sector. Social innovation too often remains local or national. We spend more time reinventing the wheel than taking what works and scaling it up.
After defining and developing the practice of social entrepreneurship around the world, Ashoka created the Globalizer program to link initiatives ready for global scale to the financial, strategic and intellectual support they require. The Globalizer Summit in Stockholm from March 26 to 28th was a chance for some of the most innovative social entrepreneurs to have their ideas challenged from top industry and business experts in the process of creating a clear strategy for global scale. With four of the 15 Fellows coming from Canada, their representation at the Summit was especially strong this year.
Throughout the Summit, there was a lot of focus on new pathways to scale, in particular the roles of open source innovation and the use of smart networks in growing social impact. The conversations and debates were lively and engaged in difficult questions.
A couple of themes in particular stood out, reflecting the nature of the challenge of growing impact without scaling the organization. For instance, smart networks expert Jerry White challenged the Fellows to consider how they can build the next generation of social leadership that is more servant-oriented than focused on being stars. Or, perhaps more directly, as one participant said, “Ego kills impact.” Another way of thinking about it, from the open source perspective, is to move from being the “king of the hill” to being “the hill itself.”
In today’s social network-powered world, entrepreneurs are constantly exploring new and effective ways to spread their idea and impact. One of the themes that provided much food for thought came from Globalizer Panelist Steven Wilkinson, who described three levels of networking:
- Survival networks: most entrepreneurs, whether social or business, tend to stay at this level, which is analogous to a distribution channel.
- Enhancement networks: trade associations and the like, which focus on enhancing knowledge.
- Excellence networks: values-based and experience-based networks such as the Young Presidents Organization.
The Canadian Fellows also offered advice for social entrepreneurs in their early stages throughout the Summit saying:
- “Find like-minded spirits and congregate with them.” – Mary Gordon
- “Get exceptional advisors, strong people who know the business world well.” – Al Etmanski
- “Spend time early on developing and perfecting your program before focusing on growth.” – John Mighton
Overall, the Summit was a huge success as Globalizer Fellows went into the weekend as “individual passionate entrepreneurs” and came out a “community of practice.”
Renee Manuel is a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow working with Ashoka in Berlin, Germany on the Globalizer program and others related to social finance. After starting her career on Wall Street, she has spent the last years in various international organizations, studying how to make development financing more effective and efficient.