The Heroic Adventure of the Social Entrepreneur?

I still seem to discover parallels between social entrepreneurship and Joseph Campbell’s hero adventure archetype in ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces‘.

Sometimes it’s helpful to be creative, to help you look at subjects from a totally different perspective and create new business ideas. Campbell’s power is his ability to inspire you to uplift yourself; to allow you to envision a sense of heroism in your own self – and for me, I believe this is significant for a social entrepreneur, especially aspiring people who want to change the world.

The Pattern of Adventure for a Hero

Campbell curiously describes the general pattern of adventure that heroes embark. Campbell was an expert in understanding the hero adventure model, as he had read several hundreds or even thousands of hero stories and myths. It’s very impressive.

He comes to realize that several adventure stories are based on a fundamental structure, as follows:

Social Entrepreneur Adventure

The mythological hero, setting forth from his common-day hut or castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother-battle, dragon-battle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold, then, the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers). When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward.

The triumph may be represented as the hero’s sexual union with the goddess-mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father-creator (father atonement), his own divinization (apothesis), or again his theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft); intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom). The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued (transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom of the dream (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir).

You’ll find that Campbell’s hero pattern is described as male. This is probably because Campbell mainly drew on mythological heroes, who tended to be male. Nowadays, we find several female heroes in films and books, and several of the common themes of adventure still remain. There are even a number of female social entrepreneurs, who I consider to be modern-day heroes, such as Mother Teresa and even Jan Folk.

The Pattern of Adventure for a Social Entrepreneur?

Sometimes I think that we adults in the ‘real world’ can get too caught up in their day-to-day worries and activities, becoming overly serious about their work. Campbell’s study on heroes can help inspire you to dream again – to think like a child!

Storybook hero characters can inspire us to believe in the hope for good, to believe in the extraordinary feats that ordinary people can accomplish, and to be optimistic.

For me, this is the importance of Campbell’s work for social entrepreneurs today.

Like the model of the hero’s adventure, social entrepreneurs come forth from their “common-day hut”, from their common-day life. Social entrepreneurs are “lured or carried away” by the social problems that surround them, or else they “voluntarily proceed” to envision a better world for their community. Then, like heroes, social entrepreneurs must also face “tests” that threaten him or her (such as lack of funding, bureacracy, disagreements with other partners, or even apathy). “Helpers” may also come along for social entrepreneurs, such as investors or donors or mentors or enthusaistic volunteers and staff.

The social entrepreneur pushes forward and forward, reaching further and further to achieve their social mission. They undergo ordeals that they must overcome, and as they do so, they aim to “restore the world.”

I recently posted 6 characteristics that story-book heroes tend to have, which social entrepreneurs can emulate.

Be Heroic. Be a Social Entrepreneur.

I consider myself to be quite an imaginative person. You must recognize, too, that imagination can help to move you. I admit that the link between social entrepreneurs and heroes can be a little far-fetched! Despite this, even Campbell agrees that sometimes it takes symbols and stories to help motivate human beings to become better people. As human beings, we’re psychologically more inclined to learn and gain meaning from symbols and stories because their more emotional and memorable.

If the symbol of the hero can help inspire you to reach further to achieve your social mission; if it can help you to be a better person and an enthusiastic social entrepreneur, then perhaps the link between heroism and social entrepreneurship isn’t so far-fetched after all.

And inspiring social entrepreneurs with good business ideas is what we’re all about here on Matthew Alberto: Social Entrepreneur.