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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, January 12, 2004

Social Software Entrepreneurs

Judith, who has recently taken over writing at the Social Software Blog, has a neat summary of a wonderful paper - The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship by J. Gregory Dees, for the Stanford Business School's Center for Social Innovation.  Its a paper written five years ago on 'business' and 'social' entrepreneurship.  

A valuable find and timely reflection when there is so much activity around social software and social networks.  It made me reflect on who really is a true Social (Software) Entrepreneur, and provided some clues into defining the very term.    

Quoting from Judith's post :

"In this paper Professor Dees gives a brief history of the evolving definition of 'entrepreneur':

early 19th century French Economist, Jean-Baptiste Say: "The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield."

early 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter: "the function of entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionize the pattern of production." They can do this in many ways: "by exploiting an invention or, more generally, an untried technological possibility for producing a new commodity or producing an old one in a new way, by opening up a new source of supply of materials or a new outlet for products, by reorganizing an industry and so on."

Peter Drucker: "the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity." Dees goes on to interpret Drucker's definition as: "Entrepreneurs have a mind-set that sees the possibilities rather than the problems created by change."

Howard H. Stevenson, a leading theorist of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School, defines the heart of entrepreneurial management as "the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."

Professor Dees - borrowing "the notions of value creation from Say, innovation and change agents from Schumpeter, pursuit of opportunity from Drucker, and resourcefulness from Stevenson" - asserts that 'social entrepreneurs' play the role of change agents by:

* Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
* Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
* Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning,
* Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
* Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

In conclusion Dees states:

"Social entrepreneurship describes a set of behaviors that are exceptional. These behaviors should be encouraged and rewarded in those who have the capabilities and temperament for this kind of work. We could use many more of them. Should everyone aspire to be a social entrepreneur? No. Not every social sector leader is well suited to being entrepreneurial. The same is true in business. Not every business leader is an entrepreneur in the sense that Say, Schumpeter, Drucker, and Stevenson had in mind. While we might wish for more entrepreneurial behavior in both sectors, society has a need for different leadership types and styles. Social entrepreneurs are one special breed of leader, and they should be recognized as such. This definition preserves their distinctive status and assures that social entrepreneurship is not treated lightly. We need social entrepreneurs to help us find new avenues toward social improvement as we enter the next century."

Judith ends by asking :

"Based on Professor Dees definitions, both borrowed and advanced, of 'Social Entrepreneurship' - Who do you think are the 'Social Entrepreneurs' of the 'Social Software' movement?"

One name from India that comes to mind is Rajesh Jain.  He's a true change agent, in his success at building sustainable collaborative systems and in his vision of 'socializing' India through technology. 

Help Judith build a list - who would you choose and why - do leave a comment here or at Judith's blog.

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