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Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi


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Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi

On Social Entrepreneurship: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities and Opportunities into Realities. A Peruvian Approach.

(Subtopic: “Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Social Entrepreneurship”)

1. Introduction: Why Is Social Entrepreneurship Important? "Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do… The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn't violate too many of Newton's Laws!" Alan Kay – Former member of the Apple R&D division “The first step to become an effective social entrepreneur is to give permission to be one!” Bill Drayton – Founder of Ashoka

We are living in a World of Constant Change (WCC) in which Social entrepreneurs and their Institutions (referred to as “SE”) represent a positive revolution. Relatively new concepts are usually in constant re-definition. Therefore, it would be useful to quote some of the experts in the field. Social entrepreneurs… 

“Are individuals with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems.” (Ashoka)1

“Act as the agents of change for society, seizing opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, invent and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that create social value.” (PBS New Heroes Program)2

Also, Social Entrepreneurship could be defined as a combination of: Entrepreneurial Principles + Focus on Social Issues = Solving Social Problems Vision: Entrepreneur

Passion: Server

Result: Social Entrepreneur

Institutions like Ashoka3 founded by Bill Drayton and Dr. Yunus’ Grameen Bank4 of Dr. Yunus are concrete examples of the importance of social entrepreneurs. In fact, they play a role as important as that of enterprises or governments. This is one of the reasons they are receiving significant attention. In addition, more people (especially the youth) want to become social entrepreneurs not only because it gives a sense of fulfillment in life5, but because they believe that they can achieve concrete positive changes in the world. 1

Ashoka’s web page. http://www.ashoka.org/social_entrepreneur (Accessed March, 2009) Article “What is a social entrepreneur?” of NOW: Social Entrepreneurs at Work. http://www.pbs.org/now/enterprisingideas/what-is.html (accessed March, 2009). The highlighted part is from the author. 3 More information: www.ashoka.org 4 More information: www.grameenfoundation.org 5 By feeling part of a movement that dreams on building a better world to live for everybody. 2

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Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi

Certainly, this topic is very broad and covers many aspects of human and social reality. Therefore, in order to provide interesting and useful recommendations, this essay will focus on one of the main challenges of SE and an innovative “path” to address it. 2. Identifying and understanding the main challenges: Sustainability at stake “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Identifying and understanding challenges is necessary in order to take advantage of opportunities that appear in a World of Constant Change. In that sense, many scholars have written about SE; in fact, questions like this have already been discussed6:  (why) Why do they appear?  (how) How do they work?  (what) What can they succeed? These subjects are of particular importance for the understanding and development of SE. However, transitional periods generate a change of paradigms and force us to rethink concepts, ideas and courses of action. In that sense, judging by: 1) The literature on this subject, 7 2) Consulting different youth leaders and social entrepreneurs from around the world8, and; 3) Our experience engaging for more than three years in social entrepreneurship9 …One of the main challenges that needs to be discussed in this context10 is: How to achieve sustainability over time? One of the main goals of SE is to make an impact. In that sense, the sustainability of its institutions, ideas and projects is essential to guarantee a long term impact and funding in the short term.11 It is also a significant challenge because, as the guide of GIS Taiwan 2009 states, it is important not to waste the valuable resources that SE receives.12 6

Crutchfield, 2008. Elkington and Hartigan, 2008. Wei-Skillern, 2007. Bornstein, 2007. Brooks, 2009. Elkington, 2008. Nicholls (ed.), 2006. 8 They come from different countries, realities and cultures and were met by the author in the different youth meetings he attended around the world (12th World Business Dialogue 2009, Second Iberoamerican Youth Leaders Summit, South American Business Forum 2008 and The Fletcher Summer Institute at Tufts University on Advanced studies in “non-violent conflict”). 9 This experience in SE was acquired by being the former-Director General of a Youth Non-Profit Network in Peru, by attending international youth summits, and by the current work on the creation of a youth public policy network in Latin America. 10 This gains even more relevance in the current “transition period” where one of the things that is at stake is the future of institutions. 11 Nobody wants to invest in something that won’t last. This gains even more relevance in the current “transition period” where one of the subjects that is at stake is the future of institutions. 12 This, in the close future, could decrease because of the economic crisis. 7

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Some concrete reasons why sustainability could be difficult to achieve: - Lack of a concrete objective: If the objective is not clear institutions become unsustainable. Members think differently about the institution and execute different projects and goals. This could lead to the atomization of the institution. - Lose of energy: Many SE rely on the participation and work of young people13. This is a great advantage because youth is innovative and resourceful. However, this energy can be fragile. In many cases, they have to divide their limited time between many responsibilities: studies, work, boyfriend/girlfriend, projects and future plans, etc. - No concrete actions: It is important to have continuous achievements, no matter how small, because it shows that the initiative or project is moving forward. Otherwise, they could lose motivation. There are many other challenges that must be taken into account. This essay does not argue that sustainability is the only challenge but focuses on it because of its importance to the effectiveness and legitimacy of SE. 3. How to transform challenges into opportunities? “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” Joseph Campbell (American Author, 1904-1987)

Victor Hugo, the famous French author, used to say that the future has many names. For the weak, it means the unattainable. For the fearful, it means the unknown. For the courageous, it means opportunity. Identifying challenges is important but turning them into opportunities is even more. Thus, a characteristic of SE is courage; when a challenge or a problem appears they look for an opportunity. That is exactly what is happening in this “Global Economy in the Transition Phase”14. I have designed a simple procedure to transform challenges into opportunities: Graphic 1: Triangle of Sustainability (ToS) Transforming Challenges into Opportunities (1) Understand

(2) Adapt

(3) Lead change Source: Self production

This graph may be regarded as an over-simplification but it helps by clearly showing what SE should take into consideration: Understanding the world, the current process of change, the main stakeholders and the core social problems; 13 For example, according to the largest annual survey on social entrepreneur in the United Kingdom: “young people are more likely to be social entrepreneurs than any other age grouping.” PR Newswire www.prnewswire.com (Accessed March, 2009) 14 As GIS Taiwan refers to it on: “Main Topic of GIS Taiwan 2009” http://gistaiwan.ntu.edu.tw/symposium/topic.html (Accessed March, 2009).

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Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi

be able to adapt and flexibility to new proposals, cultures, people, markets, ideas and changes; and leading change because SE, in general, are leaders, not followers. It should be noted that this is not an abstract theory but my own appraisal of a leader’s responsibility as gathered from my experience in charge of non-profit organizations. By acting like this, leaders will be prepared to transform challenges into opportunities in an easier way. 4. How to transform opportunities into realities? You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?" George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist. "Back to Methuselah" (1921) Ashoka’s motto: “Dream it, do it!”

Identifying opportunities is not enough. We have to make them happen!15 It is not just a matter of dreaming but of working to achieve your dreams, aspirations and goals. Graphic 2: On Dream Catching. Transforming Opportunities into Realities (1) Dreaming

(2) Working for our dreams

(3) Achieving them Source: Self production

Because we believe that dreams can come true, I and a group of youth leaders of different countries are building a Latin-American Youth Network that attempts to:  Connect youth leaders from different countries;  Bring them together to analyze and discuss the main challenges of our region;  Give incentives for team-work and information “spillovers”. You dream, you work for your dreams, and once achieved… you keep dreaming and working. 5. The Concrete Sustainability Path of Social Entrepreneurship: A visual approach. In order to summarize the ideas addressed, this visual approach could help highlight the essence of this essay.

15 I was once told that I was a “foolish dreamer” because “youth are always dreamers until they get older and realize that their dreams were impossible”… This intrigued me. Why does this happens? Are we “condemned” to realize that dreams are impossible?

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Graphic 3: The Sustainability Path of Social Entrepreneurship

Source: Self Production

Hopefully this “sustainability path” can work for most of the kinds of SE16. However, every country and sector will have to adapt it to their particular situation to take full advantage of it. I encourage all the readers to try to find improvements for better results and applications: keeping in mind that this should be a concrete way of approaching daily challenges to achieve sustainability. 6. The one thing we can never forget: Values, Principles and Essence. “Personal leadership is the process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with them.” Stephen Covey – US Expert on Leadership

After meeting many business and social entrepreneurs, politicians and experienced regional leaders I realized that in every kind of activity it is important to have clear values and principles. Institutions that “forget” their essence or main objective become significantly vulnerable. Any effort made to build a better world is useless or even counter-productive, if it is not based on: - The essence of the institution, project or initiative; - Honesty; - Commitment; - Transparency; - Tolerance; - Integrity; and, - Vocation of Service. 16

Environmentalists, poverty reductions, youth leadership, human rights, gender issues, micro-credits, animal rights, etc.

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Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi

7. Getting as concrete as possible: The Peruvian experience on Youth Engagement and Youth Leadership “Youth are uniquely equipped to change the world because they dream. They choose not to accept what is, but to imagine what might be. ” Archbishop Desmond Tutu – Peace Nobel Prize17

All these ideas are based on my experience working as a social entrepreneur in Peru and Latin-America. “Grupo Convergencia” works to turn ideas and youth initiatives into actions. It is a Non Profit Youth Organization that promotes youth leadership and youth participation.18 In that sense, we not only dreamt about a better Peru but we worked for it.19 In the year 2008 I became the Director General. There, I gained experience on youth leadership and entrepreneurship, team work, solving complex problems, taking advantage of opportunities and constant innovation and change making. Some of the achievements include:20  Forums,  Magazines,  Discussion sessions,  Generating work-teams of students from different backgrounds and socio-economical conditions and  Gatherings between students and public figures. Grupo Convergencia earned legitimacy and respect among public figures: “A project in which all Peruvians can recognize themselves, a project in which everybody can identify their dreams, illusions and passions and, also, their commitment to the nation in any task”. Valentín Paniagua Corazao, former-President of Peru, talking about “Grupo Convergencia”

The declarations of other public figures can be found in Appendix 2. These include a former Minister of Economics, the Director of the “Global Competitiveness Leadership Program” at Georgetown University, the President of the Peruvian Central Bank, among others. Therefore this is a concrete example, based on my own experience and that of hundreds of students, on how to manage the challenge of sustainability over time. Every day we take more actions in order to pursue our goals while protecting our sustainability. Grupo Convergencia: …innovative ideas for the problems of “always” (a dream, an idea, a reality)

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In the foreword to the book of Kindade and Macy, 2005. Composed of young Peruvian student leaders and has been working for 7 years promoting peruvian youth to take an active role. More information: www.grupoconvergencia.org 19 All of this in a creatively, responsible and organized way. Also, being lead entirely by youth entrepreneurs. 20 Appendix 1: “Main Achievements of Grupo Convergencia in Peru” offers further information and details about what the organization has done. 18

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8. Further discussions: What should we care for the future? The “world” of SE is broad and, clearly, this few lines could not cover all of its aspects. Therefore, I briefly propose subjects that could be further studied and some preliminary solutions (in italic) for them:  

 

How to make Effective Social Changes (ESC) in the long term? o Project Continuity, Lucid Idea of the Future, Elaborated Long Term Plan, etc. Connecting youth from around the world in a meeting is vital to foment inter-cultural interactions and exchange of ideas and concrete solutions while creating a trust network. How to make these networks sustainable? o On-line Social networks, Posterior Common Projects, Educating New Young Leaders, etc. Measuring results on non-profit institutions is more difficult than in for-profit ones. How to measure results? o Benchmarking, Development Indicators, Goals vs. Achievements, etc. How to be successful on Growth funding? o Elaborating Business Plan, Connecting with the Right People, Get Educated on Cost/Benefit Skills, etc.

9. Conclusions and Final Reflections A combination of personal experiences, successful initiatives and current literature related to Social Entrepreneurship has yielded feasible and concrete recommendations for entrepreneurs around the world to deal with global challenges. One of the main challenges that SE has to face is achieving sustainability over time. This becomes even more important in a changing global context and an international economic crisis. The current essay proposed feasible recommendations and approaches to achieve sustainability:  “The Sustainability Path of Social Entrepreneurship”: It is based on a successful initiative of a group of Peruvian students. It is explained so as to be useful to other entrepreneurs around the world for the day-to-day work.  Recommendations include: o Transform challenges into opportunities o Transform opportunities into realities. Be able to: understand (the world, changes, main social problems, etc.); to adapt and be flexible (to new proposes, cultures, markets and ideas); and to lead change (entrepreneurs are leaders, not followers); o Remain loyal to your values and principles; any effort made in order to build a better world is useless or contra productive if it doesn’t. o Never “forget” the essence of your initiative or project; the ones that do, become significantly vulnerable. Finally, create value for the future surrounded by talent and creativity; get together with people from other cultures and discuss ideas and initiatives; practice team-work; go after opportunities; take into account the environmental effects of their actions; cultivate human capital; be responsible with the education received; and be entrepreneur as a life attitude: by doing so you will contribute to build a better future for your country and for the world.

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Bibliography 1) Bornstein, David. How to change the World: social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 2) Brooks, Arthur C. Social Entrepreneurship: A Modern Approach to Social Value Creation Entrepreneurship Series. Prentice Hall Higher Education, 2009. 3) Crutchfield, Leslie. Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits. Jossey-Bass, 2008. 4) Elkington, John and Pamela Hartigan. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Save the World. Harvard Business Press. 2008. 5) Kindade, Sheila and Christina Macy. Our Time is Now: Young People Changing the World. International Youth Foundation (IYF), 2005. 6) Kliksberg, Bernardo. El contexto de la juventud en América Latina y el Caribe: las grandes interrogantes. (The Context of Youth in Latin America and the Caribbean: the Big Questions). W. Kellog Fundation, 2006. 7) Nicholls, Alex, ed. Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 8) Thompson, Andrés. Asociándose a la juventud para construir el futuro. (Association with Youth to Build the Future) W. Kellog Fundation, 2006. 9) Wei-Skillern, Jane C. Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector. Sage Publications, 2007. Web pages: 10) Ashoka’s web page: www.ashoka.org (Accessed March, 2009) 11) “Grupo Convergencia” web page: www.grupoconvergencia.org (Accessed March, 2009) 12) Interview to David Bornstein (Author of the book: How to change the World: social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas.) http://blog.futurelab.net/2007/09/social_entrepreneurship_ten_qu.html (Accessed March, 2009). 13) NOW: Social Entrepreneurs at Work. “What is a social entrepreneur?” http://www.pbs.org/now/enterprisingideas/what-is.html. (Accessed March, 2009) 14) PR Newswire. “Young Are Most Socially Minded Among UK Entrepreneurs” http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/06-232006/0004386121&EDATE= (Accessed March, 2009). 15) The Grameen Foundation web page: www.grameenfoundation.org (Accessed March, 2009)

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Appendix 1 Main Achievements of “Grupo Convergencia” in Peru  Seven years working for the benefit of peruvian youth.  Forums in Arequipa, Cusco and Lima (Peru) with an overwhelming youth participation.  Twelve magazines on economics, development, social issues and leadership published.  Bringing together students from more than 15 private and public universities from Peru  Generating work-teams among students from different social backgrounds and ideologies.  Gatherings between students and public figures such as the Minister of Economics  Virtual bulletins, discussion and integration sessions, capacitation of our members, among others. All the achievements and projects were organized by university students. For more information: www.grupoconvergencia.org

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Appendix 2 Distinguished personalities expressing their opinions about “Grupo Convergencia” The former-Minister of Economics of Peru, Fernando Zavala, said: “Grupo Convergencia has allowed [students] to better understand economic development, enrich national debate and commit our youth to the future of our country.” Ricardo Ernst, Director of the “Global Competitiveness Leadership Program” at Georgetown University: “It reaffirms, once more, that when there is determination and good will of a group that organizes itself, ideas become realities.” Julio Velarde, President of the Peruvian Central Bank: “We have to congratulate Grupo Convergencia for its initiative to promote a space of dialogue with its magazine, forums and discussion sessions”. Gastón Acurio, Cheff and International entrepreneur – Enterpreneur of the year 2006 by “América Económica”: “Some years ago, Grupo Convergencia was a signal of hope for the future of Peru. Nowadays, it’s the confirmation that our youth is the one that will transform it for ever.” Agusto Álvarez Rodrich, former Director of “Perú 21”21, “I’ve always been interested on their effort to bring together enthusiastic young people, coming from different universities and with a solid commitment to the country and its future” And last, but not least, the former-President of Peru, Valentín Paniagua, said about us that: “A project in which all Peruvians can recognize themselves, a project in which everybody can identify their dreams, illusions and passions and, also, their commitment to the nation in any task”. Source: All of these were compiled on the 12th Magazine of “Grupo Convergencia”. Special edition for the 5th anniversary of the Group. Lima – Peru.

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One of the main Peruvian newspapers.

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Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi  

Felipe Valencia-Dongohakravarti Rishi