Social entrepreneurship heals one of the world’s most unfortunate – and common – ailments: hating work. While too many people see their job as a necessary burden on the path to a paycheck, the social entrepreneur’s journey is a reward, in and of itself. Work is a vehicle to translate passion into action, and action into social change. There is no divide between personal values and professional aspirations because they are aligned in the social venture.
Nevertheless, there will be times in every social entrepreneur’s life that make her wonder whether the return justifies the investment. Lack of resources, physical and mental exhaustion, disappointing results – these factors, and others – spell doubt and fatigue. While the highs of social entrepreneurship are deeply satisfying, the lows can be crippling because so much is at stake around the cause.
This emotional rollercoaster makes social entrepreneurship a psychological battle. In the face of agony and chaos, Inspiration Capital provides the edge to succeed. Inspiration capital is the motivational force created by your greatest source of inspiration. It is necessary because, without hope, financial capital is an incomplete resource. During inevitable periods of adversity, the most valuable currency is inspiration. Inspiration capital reinvigorates your purpose and revitalizes your confidence to pursue it.
I draw my inspiration capital from disruptive changemakers. These are dynamic social entrepreneurs who make me feel part of a larger movement to confront the world’s problems through innovation.
For example, my friend, David Auerbach, co-founded Sanergy to offer proper sanitation facilities in Kenya’s slums. Sanergy trains local entrepreneurs who run the facilities, which close the waste loop by converting waste into renewable energy. David’s vision inspires holistic solutions that connect the dots between health, employment and the environment.
Rachael Chong, Founder & CEO of Catchafire, is another young leader whose work motivates my efforts. Rachel created a sleek web platform that matches volunteer professionals with nonprofits that can employ their skills and interests. Catchafire provides value at both ends of the pipeline: volunteers get a more engaging experience, while organizations save resources such as time and money. Rachel inspires a more efficient social enterprise ecosystem.
I am a strong believer in the power of games to create social change. One of my favorite new ventures is Good World Games, started by veteran Internet entrepreneur, Gregory Sukornyk. Greg founded Good World Games to make philanthropy more engaging. The premise is simple: people play mobile social games – one of the most popular forms of entertainment today – that are co-branded with nonprofits such as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Donations are made through game-related micro-transactions that are partially funneled to partnering nonprofits. It’s a novel concept: allow people to do good by doing what they already enjoy – playing! I am inspired by Greg’s application of cutting-edge digital technology to improve conditions in the physical world.
The value of inspiration capital is freely exchanged: not only do you leverage it for support, but also you share it through your positive actions. My company Bennu’s goal is helping businesses make their sustainability strategies both fun and profitable. We develop social media marketing campaigns, such as Ocean Aid, which promotes recycling and protecting the world’s oceans. Ocean Aid is inspired by veteran oceanographer, Sylvia Earle, and we hope it inspires the next wave of ocean advocates.
Whether you are a social entrepreneur who is just getting started, getting going, or getting over a setback, you have to stay focused, motivated and optimistic. Only the most tenacious succeed in this war of attrition. As a founder, your attitude – positive or negative – is contagious to all your stakeholders. When you experience moments of despair or frustration, remember your greater purpose and tap your inspiration capital. The exercise will refresh you and your commitment to the mission.
What’s your inspiration capital?