"We Don’t Need Another Hero…" (With Apologies to Tina Turner)

Posted: 28 February 2011, in Blog

28 Feb 2011

“We don’t need another hero…..“ (with apologies to Tina Turner)

What is a hero? Is it someone who displays exceptional courage, nobility or strength, a principal character in a play, novel, movie or poem, someone who fights for a cause, a mythological being or a large sandwich?

I only ask because I’m fed up with the idealised “heroic” language used in the literature and online chat about social entrepreneurs. Check out some of the cant spouted by the Schwab Foundation and see if you recognise yourself as one of the heroes/heroines they describe http://www.schwabfound.org/sf/SocialEntrepreneurs/index.htm

I think I understand why this language is used. On one level it mirrors the heroic terminology used to laud private sector entrepreneurs. On another level it differentiates social entrepreneurs as somehow more resourceful, proactive, and action oriented than other moral folk.

Why am I scunnered? I must acknowledge the Scottish “I kent his faither” attitude lurking like Catholic guilt in my DNA. It’s not just me; how many other nations have established a Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing to transform their attitudes towards “the successful” from the negative to the positive. Interestingly however, the Aussies, hardly a bunch of shrinking violets love to chop down their “tall poppies”.

So, how should we describe ourselves in a way that is realistic, recognisable and capable of inspiring others to action? Here is a wee set of suggestions?

  1. Social entrepreneurs are business folk motivated to address injustice and social, economic and environmental problems caused by market and state failure. Their concern is how this affects people and communities and how to address it in an enterprising and business like manner.
  2. Social entrepreneurs can be described as different “types”. For example, we have the new venture types and we have the advocate (change-agent) types. The former set up businesses and look to be sustainable, profitable and possibly grow “to scale”.  The latter try to change social norms and paradigms – the way people and societies translate their values into how they conceptualise and (re)consider their human, social, economic and environmental problems.
  3. Social entrepreneurs are motivated by self interest, altruism, politics, philosophy, experience, faith and the example of other social entrepreneurs.
  4. Social entrepreneurs have “crossed the Rubicon” and find themselves on the opposite bank from their pals and “cousins” in the charity and voluntary sectors.
  5. Social entrepreneurs love profit but some struggle to say so. The “value” of social enterprises is more to do with their “mission” and the social/economic/environmental outcomes and impact of these businesses.
  6. Social entrepreneurs are not (secular) saints or martyrs.

How would you describe what you do to your family and friends or have you given up trying to explain?



Note: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition.