From the very first page, one is swept up by the sheer exhilaration these businessmen feel toward social entrepreneurship and its potential to effect change. It’s hard not to feel inspired by the many stories of success. But, lest you fall victim to an idealistic, fantastical image of your enterprise floating effortlessly toward the end goal, Walls and Lynch bring you back to earth pretty quickly. Sharing advice, lessons learned, and words of infinite wisdom culled from their own experiences as well as those of 20 other social entrepreneurs, the reality of running a social enterprise is terrifyingly clear.
Social enterprise and the potential for social change
Each chapter is broken down according to ten key paradoxes of social enterprise, what they deem the most significant challenges in running a venture of this kind. Some examples include: Doing Good Versus Doing Well, Debits Versus Credits, Do-Gooders Versus Good Doers, and the list goes on. Whether you’re choosing your organizational structure, searching for ways to market your business, scale up, find and secure talent, each paradox is explored simply and comprehensively.
One of the many issues they tackle effectively and diplomatically is the definition of “social enterprise”. After providing a sampling of the more than 15,700,000 Google references, the authors proceed to deconstruct each in detail. They then provide their own personalized definition, offering a step-by-step analysis of why it works for their purposes – and why it should work for the rest of us.
Defining social enterprise – everyone’s invited
It is probably the most intensive, deductive and impressive approach to defining the obscure term you’ll find. Their definition of social enterprise: a business whose purpose is to change the world for the common good. And, yes, you’ve guessed it; their definition encompasses nonprofits, for-profits and everything in between. Food for thought.
Perhaps the most refreshing element of this book is the sheer candor the authors employ writing about their personal and professional challenges. They share it all: the ups and downs, good and bad decisions, milestones and setbacks, and the victories – those jump-up-and-down-and-shout-to-the-sky triumphs that have reinforced their deep, resonant passion for social entrepreneurship and its ability to better the world.
Elisa Birnbaum is the co-founder of SEE Change Magazine, and works as a freelance journalist, producer and communications consultant. She is also the president of Elle Communications.