A social enterprise is not an enterprise without sustainability; An individual cannot be a social entrepreneur without persistence

In today’s conference on social enterprise, Mr. Erwin Wong (Huang) from Hong Kong gave great insights to the concepts of social entrepreneurship. Some of his comments made me think about the differences between social entrepreneurs and scholars, as well as the traits necessary to become a successful social entrepreneur.

1) Mr. Wong dislikes the idea of “turning NPOs into social enterprises”. In his opinion, it takes a very long time to convert NPOs into social enterprises, because the cost of training to turn most social workers into businessmen/businesswomen is very high. The analytical skilsl, financial management backgrounds and commercial creativity that many top MBA graduates have cannot be copied easily by people in the social sector. In comparison, he posts the challenge of “finding good business people to join the 3rd sector”. And that, is the real issue the 3rd sector is facing. He felt traditional NPOs lack the right incentive structure to attract talents and build efficiency. For example, for an NPO to cut spending from $10 million to $9 million is to shrink its own budget for the coming fiscal year. That’s why most NPOs are thinking of “gradually increase spending” while showing relatively modest improvements in their missions. That’s completey against the normal capitalism profit incentive model, because in  normal enterprises, the efficiency residual is reflected in dividends. Currently, they are lacking in many “social enterprises” in Taiwan. (To be honest, many Taiwanese social enterprises are actually “revenue-generating” NPOs.

2) The main talent pool for social enterprises should be “young people with relevant work experience, NOT master/PhD students who’ve never worked”! A professor in Taiwan introduced a grand vision to turn young graduates in universities into social entrepreneurs. He explained how it would be extremely important in building the talent pool for social entrepreneurship. To bridge current gap in talent shortage, the university is introducing a “social entrepreneuership masters program”. While acknowledging the importance of spreading social entrepreneurship to young people, I am not very optimistic about such a program, especially giving the circumstance in the greater China area – many Chinese students have never worked before they go for their master degrees! To imagine people with no relevant experience running normal businesses is frightening enough, not to mention letting them start social enterprises with double bottom lines. No wonder it’s so difficult for venture philanthropists in Asia to find good investment opportunities here.

3) “Passion is not enough. Success requires persistence.” I love love love this sentence. Nowadays, so many educators advocate the importance of passion. Many authors are out there writing about the importance of doing something one truly loves. While I acknowledge passion role in shaping an individuals’ perspective, I am disappointed at the persistence level of today’s youth. (at times myself)

When you ask an undergraduate student what he/she wants to do in the next few years, about 75% or more cannot give you an answer. These people need to find their passions, no doubt. However, the rest 25% who can tell you about their passions for hours, only 20% will actually go pursue it. Many would take some actions, but not towards their true goals. (accountants, for example…) This brings us to the top 5% graduates, who know what they want to do and are actively pursuing it. The most unfortunate things happen here. Many in this group cannot hold on to their goals/dreams. They are beaten up by reality before they conquer it. The reason is simple – to outperform a few times is easy, but to constantly outperform, adapt and innovate is very difficult. This immediately shrinks the pool to 0.5% or even less.

The remaining are the true elites. These are the people who build businesses in the most needed parts of the world; people who not only show their disatisfactions to the status quos, but actually take actions to change them; people who understand delay of gratification and patiently waiting for their ground breaking moments.

If you are a persistent person, it will reflect in your choices. “Are you a person who always gets things done, on time, every time?” This is the type of person I would trust. (probably the only type of person I want to be my business partner) ” Do you fulfill your promises to others, big or small? How many times did you say ‘I will’ to others, but forgot about those promises completely?” This tells others if you are a person of words or a person of actions. “Are you critical of your own actions, more than actions of others?” This is one of the hardest step, because it counters the defense mechanism theory of psychology, which says we usually attribute others’ failures to their personal traits, but our own to circumstances.

Final Words: The word social entrepreneurship shows up in dozens of MBA applications. Schools are hardly surprising about the wills of many young, ambitious individuals to become social entrepreneurs nowadays. However, before we put down the word, we should think about what it really means and the responsibilities it will bring to our shoulders.

在今天的社會企業會議上,香港社會企業家Erwin黃先生對社會企業的概念,有著深刻的見解。他的演講和評論讓我反思了社會企業家和學者之間的差別,以及成為一個成功的社會企業家必要的特質。

1)王先生不喜歡“把非營利組織轉化為社會企業”的理念。在他看來,這需要很長的時間來完成。因為把大多數社會工作者培訓成為商人的成本是非常高的。而社區工作者的數據分析能力,財務管理背景和商業創意,很難與名牌MBA畢業生比較。相對而言,他認為目前的重任在與“尋找良好的商務人士參加的第三部門”。而這,才是第三部門面臨的真正挑戰。他認為傳統的非營利組織缺乏正確的激勵機制來吸引人才和建立效率。例如,對於一個非營利組織,如果削減開支從1000萬美元到900萬美元,就縮小了自己下一個財政年度的撥款預算。這就是為什麼大多數非營利組織的所思所想是如何讓捐款人“逐步加大投入力度”,而以相對緩慢的運作來改善在他們的服務人群。這是完全不符合正常的資本主義利潤激勵模式的。因為在一般的企業,高效率體現在股息的分配。這個能也是台灣缺乏許多“社會企業”的原因。 (說實話,許多台灣的社會企業,其實是“創收”非營利組織的。)

2)社會企業主要的人才庫應該是“有相關工作經驗的年輕人,而不是碩士/博士的學生中從來沒有參與實踐的人”!一位教授在台灣推出了宏偉的遠景,他想要把年輕的大學畢業生變成社會企業家。他解釋說,這是在建設社會企業非常重要的人才庫。為了彌補目前的人才短缺,大學將引入社會企業家碩士課程。雖然我承認傳播社會創業的重要性,可是我不是很看好這樣的程序,尤其是在大中國地區- 許多中國畢業生學生從來沒有工作過!要想像讓沒有相關工作經驗的人運行一個普通企業已經夠可怕的了,更別提讓他們來創造雙底線的社會企業。難怪在亞洲的企業慈善家很難找到好的投資機會。

3)“光有激情是不夠的。成功需要的是持之以恆。”這句話道出了我的心聲。如今,這麼多的教育工作者主張激情的重要性。許多作者都在寫做自己喜歡的事非常重要。雖然我承認激情在塑造個人成功中扮演的角色,可是對於今天的年輕人的耐力,我感到非常失望。 (有時我自己也是)

當你問一個大學生在未來的幾年中他/她想做的事,大約75%的人不能給你答案。毫無疑問,這些人需要找到自己的興趣。然而,其餘25%的人可以花上幾個小時的時間和你談興趣,可他們之中只有20%會真正去追求它。很多人會採取一些行動,但沒有真正和他們的目標接頭。 (例如會計師…)這是我們還剩下5%的畢業生。他們知道自己想要做什麼,並正在積極尋求理想。最不幸的事情也是發生在這裡。這群人中有很多人不能堅持下去,他們被殘酷的現實所擊敗。原因很簡單- 超常發揮幾次是很容易的,但要不斷超越,適應環境和創新是非常困難的。這立即將企業家人才庫收縮至0.5%或者更少。

剩下的是真正的精英。這些是在世界各地最需要的地方建立企業的人,不滿於現狀並積極改變現狀的人,認識到臥薪嘗膽的重要性,並耐心地等待破釜沉舟時刻的人。

如果你是一個執著的人,你會有不一樣的選擇。想一想。你是否總是把事情按時完成,從來不推遲。這一類人是我最能信任的人。 (我想是我將來的商業夥伴必須是這一個類型的人。)你是否履行承諾是金的原則,無論大小,將承諾兌現。有多少次你承諾了他人,卻將它拋諸腦後?這告訴別人,如果你只是一個愛耍嘴皮子的人,還是一個行動者。你是否對自己的要求比對別人高?這其實是最難的一步。因為這是違反心理學中防禦機制理論的- 我們通常將別人的失敗歸結到他們的個人特質,而將我們自己的歸結到周邊環境的不利。

最後的話:社​​會企業家精神這個詞在很多MBA申請表中屢見不鮮。學校也對許多年輕的白領成為社會企業家的意願不足為奇。然而,在我們寫下這個詞的時候應該想想它的真正含義,和它給我們帶來的責任。

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