We are in a time of increasingly complex need and demand, diminishing and shifting resources, expanding global interests, and a new media and information environment and culture that promotes and supports information sharing, innovation and collaboration. With this as context, it makes sense that we would look for and celebrate those who seem to rise above the rest and as the Skoll Foundation puts it: “forever change established, but fundamentally inequitable systems.”
More and more these discussions herald the “social entrepreneur” as the leader of change. People like Lucy Bernholz, and organizations like the Skoll Foundation and Ashoka, often spearhead the discussions, promoting the good work of this newly-branded group of change agents, while also challenging both the social and philanthropic sectors to raise the bar on transparency, effectiveness and ultimately impact. It is encouraging to see more attention placed on the need for social change and to see an increasing number of people across sectors recognize the need for social change to address fundamental inequities and to push for it.
However, in doing so, let’s not forget those who have been holding it all together for the past several decades (and longer) and who have been making, for the most part, strides towards worthy missions and positive social change. They go by the term “Executive Director” or ”President.” They are the leaders of social sector and philanthropic organizations. In fact, you probably know one, are one, might have been one or aspire to be one.
Over the past 20 years, I have had the good fortune to meet and work with hundreds of these leaders who come from all walks of life. They are a remarkable group of people. Their work and focus spans multiple dimensions and integrates leadership, collaboration, management, supervision, innovation, vision and good old common sense. They work in environments of constantly changing expectations, shifting and competing priorities, and organizational and situational complexities. On a daily basis they have taken up the mantle of social change agent and pressed forward; despite challenges and set-backs, they have not wavered from their missions.
No doubt the conversation will continue as to what is or is not social entrepreneurship and thus who is or is not a social entrepreneur. In the meantime, on behalf of all that you have done, are doing and will do. I wish to say Thank You to the Executive Directors and Presidents of social and philanthropic sector organizations.