Matthew’s Insights: 4 Reflections on Last Year from an Aspiring Social Entrepreneur

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying the past 15 days or so for the beginning of year and hopefully learning to become one of many successful entrepreneurs.

As we journey together through the new year, I felt that it was necessary to do some reflection about the preiovus year from my personal perspective as an aspiring social entrepreneur.

Learning from the Past Helps to Make Better Decisions Now & in the Future

I’ve been doing alot of thinking about this website –, how it’s been doing, and where it’s going. I’ve been thinking that in the past few weeks and months, many of my posts have been more informative – but lacking a flair of emotion and personalization. That’s why I thought that perhaps, I should share some of my more personal insights from now on. Would you like more of that?

Well I’ll try that and see how it goes. I have been busy, but I want to continue to nourish your skills and build a relationship with passionate people like you.

1. The Power of Trying Something New

I suppose this attitude of “trying” is something that I want to reflect on, and that’s why I want to do more of it this new year.

Trying to Live and Work Independently

For 2011, I believe I completely tried completely different things. For one thing, I actually totally quit my job at the UN World Food Programme. I did that in about April 2011. Actually it was a volunteer position, but I really treated it like a job, especially because it was a 2 year position, and because of the high responsiblity I was given as a Programme Officer, and it was a volunteer paid position (which is a paradox in itself?). They actually asked me to stay on for another year or so, but I flat out said “No Thanks.”

I learnt alot there, managing food aid programmes for tens of thousands of Burmese refugees in Bangladesh during those 2 years – but that’s the thing, it began to feel like 2 years of doing exactly the same stuff. I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore, not contributing as much as I could.

I also felt a strange disconnect because on the one hand, I had started up this blog on social entrepreneurship while I was working with the UN, and yet on the other hand, I began to feel more and more like the work I was doing at the UN was NOT entrepreneurial at all. Also, I was feeling more and more like the work I was doing was unsustainable, which is contrary to many newer social enterprise concepts that I was being exposed to (such as Muhammad Yunus, etc).

So I tried something totally different in 2011, which I am proud of. I ventured on my own.

I began to work on this website more and more. I began to tap into my internet and computer skills, as well as my business skills, now I have the privelege to work on this blog full time to promote social entrepreneurship and online good causes every single day.

2. The Power of Persevering Even in the Face of Adversity

OK, so I admit that going alone and being self-employed is not exactly easy! That’s perhaps why the majority of people are not business entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs, ad probably why I was drilled my whole life prior to my self-actualization to become an employee. So if you are an entrepreneur or self-employed in any way, I can empathise with you wholeheartedly.

I did face a number of obstacles such as:

a. Lack of Capital/Money

So as I said before, I was living on a volunteer pay for 2 years of my life prior to April 2011! (i.e. it wasn’t really that much) I couldn’t live on that pay in Australia, that’s for sure. But that’s what I had chosen to do. I had chosen 2 years before 2011 to go to Bangladesh because I wanted to contribute to something that was greater than myself. I wanted to give my gifts and talents for a good cause. But in 2011, I began to feel that I had been giving away too much, and that I had’t received a suitable pay in return for the value I was actually giving in terms of my time, intelligence and skills – and I knew that it would no longer be sustainable for me as a person, and esepcially wouldn’t be sustainable for me to support my own family or even have a good quality of life for myself. (So this is probably another good reason why I supoprt the idea of social entrepreneurship – the idea that you can do good AND do well) because at this point in my life I was NOT doing well at all.

I flew back to Australia after some weeks travelling to Nepal and India, and I was confused about what to do with my life. I had no money and no job, and no steady stream of income – OUCH.

b. Criticism & Doubt

Even though I had no money, I had a strong belief in myself and the idea of entreprneuership. I had read and watched countless other business entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs turn something out of nothing – and this is the belief that helped me stand firm even in the face of criticism and doubt.

Even my mother had a nice talk to me to say that I should go and get a “real job” because it was more stable, oh and the superannuation (IRA equivalent in Australia) payments would be good, and the pay was high. I seriously thought about getting a job, but my heart and my spirit totally refused. I had known of examples when a job actually wasn’t “stable” (especially when you could get fired or let go due to restructuring easily), and I knew of examples where entrepreneurs actually made much much more than employees, and I totally disliked the fact that I would be trapped in another job that I didn’t like and I didn’t feel like I was contributing as much as I could.

c. Fear of Failure

So yes there was alot of doubt and criticism from others about what I was venturing on doing. But I guess the most impactful judgements are the ones that you put upon yourself.

While some people get bogged down by the criticism of others, perhaps I’m just weird, but I actually get spurned on whenever someone tells me I can’t achieve something that I have set out to do. I become even more driven – and I guess this has helped me to overcome the fear of failure. The drive and the resilience to keep going even in the face of adversity. Perhaps this lesson could help you out this year too.

3. Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone

I think what I’ve also learned from last year is that you need to go beyond your comfort zones. Social Entrepreneurs and other passionate people must do this especially. Leaving a comfortable job was one way that I went beyond a regular box that I was in. But apart from just your job, go and try other things in life so that you actually get inspired by the world around you.

For me, I also learned this lesson from travelling to Nepal and India and Laos this year, and then also living in Thailand for the last few months. I learnt many things from my job in Bangladesh, but I also learned and met various groups of people from just exploring and adventuring around the world.

4. Remembering Your True Purpose

Now that it’s a new year, I’m grateful that I actually overcame alot of those obstacles last year. I now actaully live well as a self-employed person, and I don’t think I’ll ever get a regular job again.

As I have been travelling and building my own ventures, I have started to feel that I have been losing sight of my deepest core purpose though, and thats’ something that I want to reflect on and live out more of this year. I want to ensure that my entrepreneurial endeavors still have that social and world-changing element. That the structures that I build and lifestyle that I live continues to reflect what I’m deeply passionate about; and that is to help change the world to by by helping people like you to value life through being an empowered, passionate, loving and inspirational person – as much as I can be.

Final Note

This may have been alot of rambling to you, but I just truly wanted to share with you how I am really just thinking and feeling right now. And I think that it’s important to be able to communicate with you. I really just care because I want to ensure that people with dreams and good hearts actaully get noticed – that’s essentially why I built and maintain this website.

I wish you the best this year, and I hope that you also reflect on how you did last year and whether you’ve reached your goals as successful entrepreneurs. What obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them? Be aware of them, so that you can live extraordinarily and give awesomely this year round.

A Social Entrepreneurship Job Can Help You Get Started

Blowing in the Wind [Photo by h.koppdelaney] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A number of people get in touch with me to share their social entrepreneurship ambitions and discuss what business to start. However, many face the problem of getting simply started! Sometimes it helps to get some work experience before starting your own enterprise, and a social entrepreneurship job can be your first step.

A social entrepreneurship job is a great choice for those people who are passionate about sustainable development work. The field of social enterprise is varied and growing, meaning that it offers a wide range of job opportunities. Those who would like to learn more about the nature of social enterprise work should check out some websites like Ashoka, Echoing Green, the Social Enterprise Library and the Skoll Foundation which offer great resources on the topic.

Some websites like Fast Company offer an annual ranking of the best non profits and social enterprises to work for on their Social Capitalist Awards site. Business Ethics Magazine of Corporate responsibility also lists the top 100 corporations in terms of their CSR initiatives. Those who would like to work for a social enterprise may also want to consider looking at positions with one of the hundreds of certified B Corporations.

Be sure to also check out the social entrepreneurship jobs at our very own job board! There could be an opportunity that suits you, and could help you get ideas and get experience to figure out what business to start.

3 Examples of Social Enterprise in Pakistan

Often it’s useful to learn about successful social enterprises as role models for your own ideas. If you are thinking about what business to start, here are 3 social enterprise ideas from Pakistan, a country in South Asia, nearby Afghanistan and India.

1. YES Social Enterprise in Pakistan

Run Run Run [Photo by Umair Mohsin] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Youth Engagement Services (YES) is a network dedicated to funding social enterprise in Pakistan. Specifically, YES looks to fund micro social enterprises which are created and run by disadvantaged youth in the country.

The goal is to turn alienated young people into socially engaged entrepreneurs who are active in their communities, with a vested interest in working for positive development. Most of the population of Pakistan is currently age 30 or younger, so reaching out to this sector of the society is crucial to the future of the country.

Pakistan currently lacks enough support services to help these young people develop their potential and contribute to their communities in positive ways. YES network reaches out to young people with a focus on ways they can contribute to economic growth in the country, which in turn lowers rates of violence and terrorism.

2. Kashf Pakistan Microfinance

Kashf means “miracle” or “revelation” in the native language of Pakistan. The Kashf Foundation began operating in 1996 in the area of Pakistan microfinance in order to aid the poor women living in the Lahore area. The first round of microcredit from Kashf was given out to 15 women who used it to start up small businesses which generated income for themselves and their families.

Since that time, the client base of Kashf has expanded rapidly and currently reaches over 60,000. They continue to focus on the unique needs of women in Pakistan via a unique economic empowerment program which includes both financial assistance and non financial services as well.

The foundation operates in a sustainable manner and has developed a reputation as one of the top microfinance funders in the country.

3. Jassar Farms Social Business in Pakistan

Pashtun Kids [Photo by colinroots] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Jassar Farms is a social business in Pakistan founded by a graduate of one of the most elite universities in the country. Shahzad Iqbal quit his job in banking to move to a small village in Narowal and get into the dairy farming business.

He focused his years of business school training on his new business and organized Jassar Farms into a corporate structure and found ways of increasing the average milk yield of each of his cows. The average milk yield of cows in Pakistan is 4 liters of milk daily, which is far lower than the average of 33 liters per day produced by cows in developed countries.

Rather than paying thousands of dollars per cow to import them from the US or Australia, Shahzad began using artificial insemination to crossbreed elite bulls with local cows. Hopefully, these examples of businesses have given you some food for thought when you reflect on what business to start.

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship That Successful Organizations Share

Desert Leader [Photo by Hamed Saber] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Successful social enterprises share certain characteristics of social entrepreneurship in common. Chief among these is the willingness to self-correct. It’s estimated that 90% of successful ventures start out with the wrong business plan, and the ones that succeed must therefore alter course at some point. It takes a combination of humility and courage to admit when something isn’t working and question your assumptions.

Another important characteristic is the willingness to share credit. A good example of this is the Ashoka Fellow of the Year David Kuria of Kenya. He’s the founder of IkoToilet, which built hygenic and affordable toilets for 1 million slumdwellers in Kibera, a district of Nairobi. When he realized that government regulations would make it difficult to expand, he put the City Council of Nairobi’s logo on all Ikotoilets to gain their support.”>

Defining Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship

Other defining characteristics of social entrepreneurship include the ability to shrug off the constraints of ideology in order to identify and apply practical solutions to social problems. This requires a combination of innovation, resourcefulness and opportunity. Innovation is necessary for finding new products, services and approaches to social problems, but that’s just the first step.

To apply these ideas successfully requires focus on social value creation and a willingness to share the innovations and insights for others to replicate. Often social entrepreneurs will have to take a leap of faith in pursuing their ideas before they are able to secure full funding. To deal with the high level of risk involved, they must possess an unwavering belief in their innate capacity to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development, and exhibit a dogged determination that pushes them to take the necessary risks.

Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurship Change Agents

Kathmandu , Nepal,Himalayas,Everest [Photo by ilkerender] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

It’s worth noting that many of the characteristics of social entrepreneurship are shared by traditional business startups as well. Some characteristics that differ include an explicitly formulated mission to create and sustain social value and to benefit communities. This involves the pursuit of new opportunities and hidden resources to serve that mission, and a quest for sustainable models based on a well-elaborated feasibility study.

Success requires ongoing engagement in innovation, adaptation and learning. In social enterprises, decision-making power is not based on capital ownership, but rather the participatory and collaborative nature of these organizations involve various stakeholders. Due to this fact, there is often a limited distribution of profit and a minimum amount of paid work associated with these enterprises. However, they empower people in other ways by putting change opportunities in the hands of every individual.

3 Examples of Corporate Social Entrepreneurship

1. Asian Corporate Social Entrepreneurship Awards

IMG_3571 [Photo by David Boyle in DC] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Malakoff Corporation Bhd, a Malaysian company based in Kuala Lumpur, was recognized for its pioneering corporate social entrepreneurship.

At the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards 2011, Malakoff won top honors in the social empowerment category. The win is a testimony to the successful collaboration between the company and its stakeholders, especially the local communities where they operate. According to CEO Zainal Abidin Jalil the award has reinforced their commitment to do even more in terms of their CSR initiatives going forward. The Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards recognize and honor corporations that champion sustainable and responsible entrepreneurship in seven different categories.

These include social empowerment, green leadership, investment in people, corporate governance, health promotion, SME CSR and responsible business leadership. The 2011 competition featured a total of 28 corporations from six Southeast Asian countries competing for the top spots.

2. Corporate Social Entrepreneurship in Sport

Office Politics: A Rise to the Top [Photo by Alex E. Proimos] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

When it comes to the area of youth sports, a popular approach by corporate sponsors is to provide funding for a single event with very little allocated to medium or long-term development. It can be argued that sponsorship from the business sector must progress from a notion of corporate social responsibility to corporate social entrepreneurship. This would maximize the relationship between company and community and ensure sustainable development in all aspects, including sport.

Most sponsors still look for high-profile branding opportunities and ignore those activities in remote communities with limited photo-ops. Funding should go beyond tokenism and facilitate a more sustainable approach to sport at the community level.

A well known community activist in Trinidad and Tobago, Muhammad Shabazz, has noted that the rising tide of gang violence in his community could be addressed through youth sports programs. Many of these youths are talented in sports, and if given the opportunities to develop would likely channel their energies away from crime.

3. Corporate Social Entrepreneurship in Tanzania

The National Bank of Commerce (NBC) in Tanzania has donated Sh 18.2 million to the Equal Opportunity to All Fund (EOTF) for the training of 250 women entrepreneurs from different regions of the country. This assistance is part of the bank’s corporate social entrepreneurship program.

The head of NBC Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Ms Mwinda Kiula-Mfugale, noted that many local women need only a small amount of capital for their businesses to be successful. By empowering them financially and economically, they will be able to face their life challenges and improve their communities as well.

She said that the investment would ultimately increase employment opportunities in the country, which is one of the pillars of the bank’s CSR policy. As part of the EOTF program, the 250 women would receive education on how to utilize loans, improve the quality of their products and market them effectively.