One of the greatest challenges -- and opportunities -- for those who are working to make a difference is the tumultuous economic climate in which we're living. It is a crisis of immense proportions in large portions of the middle class and poor, suppressing demand and triggering fear of what might be.
The pervading sense of lack is changing the rules of the game. Government, mostly fueled by taxes upon the middle class, can't keep spending without amassing huge levels of debt. Banks shy away from loans to small business, perceived as too risky in light of the financial collapse brought on by the market excesses of the last decade. Even those with the means to invest are fearing to do so, castigated as evil simply because of their situation in life and placed at risk by growing populist unrest.
As a result, social entrepreneurs and activists are having to find new ways to launch their missions, unable to depend on traditional sources of sales or funding to generate cash flow to sustain their efforts to serve, much less their families and lifestyles.
If you're interested in becoming a social entrepreneur or otherwise looking to change the world, there's a new term to add to your vocabulary. It's venture philanthropist. That's an individual or institution with cash to invest who wants to do some good in the world with it.
Maybe you're the one who can help them out.
Social entrepreneurs usually don't have access to the same funding markets as business entrepreneurs, because without a defined profit objective and plan to carry it out, they lack the essential elements that angel investors and venture capitalists usually look for. As for traditional asset-backed lending from banks and similar institutions, that often leaves the social entrepreneur on the outside looking in for money to grow his or her mission.
Rod Schwartz (of ClearlySo) led an online discussion in May, 2011, for Social Edge -- a program of the Skoll Foundation -- questioning the efficacy of an industry built on a business model requiring grants and gifts to make an impact.
This is a view I share for many reasons, not the least of which is that entrepreneurs depending on SBEI grants/gifts often end up putting more attention on begging for dollars than actually performing the work they feel called to do.
We at MissionLaunch think missions must be sustainable -- that is, they generate through their service activities the means to carry out the mission, as well as adequately support those involved in it.
And by adequate, we don't mean subsistence. We mean enough to sustain your families and the lifestyles reasonably needed to live in this world with peace and ease. With enough left over to sock away for a rainy day and retirement.
You know. Profit for a purpose.
We don't live in a vacuum. The stuff going on in the world affects us whether we like it or not. Politics. Economy. War. It all seeps into our consciousness, affecting how we see our world and live our lives.
Some say we should disconnect from those dramas. To an extent I agree, since getting caught up in them can exacerbate the fear and distrust that's bubbling to the surface, or distract us from what we're trying to do.
Yet some are so infused into our lives that it can be mighty hard to ignore them.
Take the economic melt down, for instance. It's wreaked hell on the general economy.
Bringing your vision to life may be inspired from within, but unless you're independently wealthy, turning it into a viable mission will quickly bring you face-to-face with an outer reality -- without the money to keep it going, it can be a real challenge to change the world.
Inner conditions aside, the outer world can be a harsh environment in which to start a mission, and an even tougher one to keep it going. Though perhaps it's the last place you'd rather your attention be, money matters and it must become a primary focus if your project is to remain viable.