Bill Drayton´s Five trends for Social Entrepreneurship

At a recent event in NYC, journalist and author David Bornstein interviewed Ashoka Founder Bill Drayton about the future of social entrepreneurship.

In case you missed it, here is the video of the interview

Find also below a recap of the event from Eli Malinsky of the Centre for Social Innovation.

1.) Find Comfort in Change

The pace of change is accelerating. To be sure, the world has always been in flux. But the increase is now truly exponential. As Drayton explains, “change begets change as much as repetition reinforces repetition.”

In short: Keep changing with the world around you, or you’ll be left in the dust.

2.) Commit to the Movement

Social entrepreneurship is here to stay. With a citizen sector that’s been outpacing growth in the private and public sectors, the social enterprise movement is no passing fad. We are on the cusp of a new world and any individual or institution that ignores this reality is making a grave mistake.

The risk isn’t stepping out into the unknown to find purpose through your work. The risk is missing the opportunity to do so.

3.) See Challenges as Opportunities

An increasingly dynamic world, and a spike in social values, are creating incredible opportunity for new ventures. Too many people, argues Drayton, are stopped in their tracks by a closed door. A true social entrepreneur sees every closed door as an opportunity. In fact, the very first places to look for new ideas are areas where systems are breaking down, including sites of market failure. Where there are gaps, there are golden opportunities to bring unlikely partners together in new ways.

In other words, expand your thinking. Open closed doors and step through to a brighter future.

4.) Aim High

Drayton identifies four levels of social change: direct service, scaling up, pattern change, and framework change. While he sees great potential in a broad movement of entrepreneurs dedicating their lives to social impact, his highest admiration is reserved for those moving beyond incremental change to framework change. This means the disruption of an entire system; not just the reconfiguring existing patterns, but obliterating them entirely, replacing old models with new operating systems.

The advice for emerging social entrepreneurs? Dig deeper, look further upstream, and aim big. Utter transformation is possible and necessary. Set your sights high.

5.) Embrace Empathy

If there’s one thing Drayton is convinced of, it’s that empathy is the key to a new world. In fact, we have a moral imperative to cultivate empathy in children, or we risk leaving them entirely incapable of operating in the 21st century.

Half of the argument is a moral one, imploring citizens to recognize our shared values. The other half is utterly practical. With syllogistic logic, Drayton lays it out simply: The future is change-making; empathy is critical to change-making; developing empathy skills is the key to the future.

Aspiring social entrepreneurs must be rooted in an empathetic mind frame if they hope to create any real impact. Or, more simply, “If you don’t have empathy, you are out of the game.”

Agree? Disagree?


  1. Carlos García-Bañón on 17 de January de 2013 at 10:22

    Fantástico post: simple, claro y conciso! Gracias.