The Second Decade of the 21st Century is here: Bring in the Sociopreneurs!
Guest Post by Joan Marques
The first decade of the 21st century was a fascinating ride with ups and downs, with lessons from which we all could learn. The second decade has started and the entrepreneur who leads the way now is the sociopreneur.
Sociopreneurs are not new, but they have been increasing in numbers since the dreadful manifestations of the Enrons, Tyco’s, and Worldcoms; the insider trading and accounting scandals; the exorbitant CEO salaries, dishonest financial industry practices, and all the other manifestations of corporate greed.
Sociopreneurs, also referred to as social entrepreneurs, have a drive similar to entrepreneurs as they are determined to be successful, but they also focus on a mission that extends beyond the bottom line. Their concern reaches beyond the wellbeing of their families and themselves.
Sociopreneurs distinguish themselves from other entrepreneurs in their concern for the wellbeing of their community. Their ventures usually come from a trend that is ignored or taken for granted by everyone else, even though it creates an unfair disadvantage for certain groups. In other words: socio entrepreneurs focus their endeavors on righting a wrong.
The most famous sociopreneur is Muhammad Yunus, an ex-economics professor who started Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in response to conventional banks refusing to provide small loans to small entrepreneurs. Yunus’ entrepreneurial project became so successful that it caught the attention of the world!
Aside from Grameen Bank managing to prove banks wrong, because Grameen has a 98% return on its microloans and has helped many ex-poor people in Bangladesh to become dignified micropreneurs, Yunus branched out in other areas, and collaborated with major yoghurt and cellphone companies to deliver essential products to the people of Bangladesh.
Yunus is so far the only business person who won the Nobel Peace Prize, and has inspired selfstarters globally to engage in a similar purpose: righting a wrong.
A sociopreneur is not an entrepreneur who is a philanthropist for social causes. While making donations to social causes is praiseworthy and should be continued, the difference between donating to a social cause and being a sociopreneur is that the entire livelihood of the sociopreneur is based on a social cause. Besides, while philanthropists are usually affluent, a sociopreneur does not have to be.
What is the fabric that sociopreneurs are made of? How do they stand out? What drives them? These are seven traits of sociopreneurs:
1. They proactively expand their circle of influence to meet their circle of concern. This is a concept that is based on Steven Covey’s first of seven habits for highly effective people from his bestselling book with the same title. Proactive people are those who don’t wait around until others do what needs to be done: they take initiative.
Covey explains that we should try to expand our circle of influence, so that we can address more of our concerns.We also need to accept our limitations. Sociopreneurs transcend their limitations and stretch their circle of influence even further than other effective people.
2. They begin with the end in mind. This is the second of Covey’s seven habits. It entails considering what you want people to say about you when your life is over, and then work to make that happen. Sociopreneurs instinctively do that. They are doing the right thing, whether anyone recognizes it or not. They know in their heart that their efforts are honorable, and that they will not regret having started them.
3. They think win-win-win. This trait is Covey’s fourth habit, but enriched with an extra layer of winnings. Covey’s fourth habit discusses the fact that traditional business people deal from a win-lose mindset: If I want to win, you will have to lose, vice versa. Highly effective people, says Covey, work from a win-win approach: we can both win, and if that’s not possible, the deal is off.
Sociopreneurs take it a step further. They don’t just consider themselves and their counterpart, but also the community and the environment: “the bigger picture.” Their deals are based on winning for you, me, and the community.
4. They seek first to understand, and then shift into higher gear. This one was inspired by Covey’s fifth habit, “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
Sociopreneurs know that waiting to be understood may take a long time. If Muhammad Yunus had waited for anyone to understand his effort to end the poverty of the poor producers in Bangladesh, he would still be waiting. He shifted into gear when he realized that no one was listening. That is what sociopreneurs do: they try to understand what is wrong and why no one does anything about it, and then go for making the “impossible” possible.
5. They elevate the general awareness level. By trying to right a wrong, sociopreneurs often receive support from least expected corners. They awaken others, who thus far haven’tconsidered the possibility of doing what they do. They encourage others to follow their example and to make a positive difference. The fact that we have the word sociopreneur these days indicates that we are facing a trend here that didn’t exist before, but that is gaining momentum.
6. They are awakened leaders. Sociopreneurs are leaders who tune their mind into what their heart is telling them. Their efforts are not borne from the will to make money, but to make a positive difference and then hopefully make money. too.
They engage with passion and compassion. They care for the current and future wellbeing of society, and understand the interconnectedness of everything. They have risen beyond the segregated mindset, and see “us” where others see “you versus me.”
7. They are trendsetters and critical thinkers. When others ask, “Why?”, sociopreneurs ask, “Why not?” They start movements, and break grounds. They are forerunners, who take great but rewarding risks.
They rise above the limitations of their culture, religion, age group, or other affiliate groups, and look for unconventional options to solve a problem. While they don’t have an aversion to earning capital, they include a social aspect in their thinking, so they become social-capitalists.
The accelerated emergence of the sociopreneur is one of the consequences of the pleasant and difficult lessons we learned in the first decade of this century. The pleasant lessons, such as greater connection through social networks, have opened our eyes to our human similarities, and have expanded our idea of friends, colleagues, and family.
The difficult lessons, such as 9/11, tsunamis, earthquakes, and economic downturns, taught us about interdependence as well, as we realized their massive impact on all of us. As a result, many of us understand now that our dependents are far more than our immediate family. Our dependents are those people who live and work with us in our community and in the world. So, bring in the sociopreneurs!
Joan Marques of www.joanmargques.com has co-written and co-edited 9 books so far, among which Managing in the Twenty-First Century: Transforming Toward mutual Growth (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2011), Joy at Work, Work at joy: Living and Working Mindfully every Day (Personhood Press, 2010). The Workplace and Spirituality: New Perspectives in Research and Practice, (SkyLight Paths, 2009), an anthology with contributions from 25 authors from all over the globe, The Awakened Leader , Interbeing, Thoughts on Achieving Personal and Professional Excellence, Seasoned Adages for Modern Days Leaders, and Spirituality in the Workplace: What it Means; Why it Matters; How to Make it Work for You.
She serves as the Director of the BBA Program and an assistant professor at the School of Business, Woodbury University. Joan teaches courses in business and management to graduates and undergraduate students, presents a weekly radio column in the Netherlands, a weekly newspaper column in Suriname, South-America, and a series of workshops for business and non-profit entities in the Los Angeles area through the Business Renaissance Institute and ASPEX, the Academy of Spirituality and Professional Excellence, two organizations she co-founded. She hold a Bachelors degree in Business Economics; a Master’s degree in Business Administration; and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.