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3 Lessons About Social Entrepreneurship

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Hallelujah for Philanthropy University! :)

Philanthropy University offers FREE (YES, no cost whatsoever, anywhere, not even in fine print) online courses for people who are, or want to become, change makers in the social sector. Right now they have seven courses, and if you complete all of them you’ll get a certificate in social sector leadership from the University of California Berkeley-Haas Business School. Or, you can register for the courses and complete them on your own time, just for the fun and good sense of equipping yourself with extra knowledge from, quite frankly, some of the world’s most influential change makers.

So far I’ve completed the Global Social Entrepreneurship, which is led by Jessica Jackley. Jessica is the co-founder of, a groundbreaking person-to-person microlending website set up to help alleviate global poverty. In 10 years Kiva has facilitated around $750 million in loans throughout the world, with many lenders contributing a mere $25 towards loans.

Here’s what I learned from this awesome course:

Entrepreneurship Can Create HUGE Opportunity

Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the founder of Grameen Bank, a microfinancing organization that provides collateral-free loans to the poor, launched Grameen after lending $27 to 42 women in a village in Bangladesh. His loan was repaid, and the women were able to make significant strides with that seemingly tiny financial break.

Jessica Jackley also talks about seeing the impact of see how small grants changed the lives of micro-entrepreneurs in East Africa during her 3-month internship with Village Enterprise. “They were working incredibly hard using their businesses and tools to lift themselves and their families out of abject poverty”, she says. She saw people make incredible shifts in their standard of living, elevating the lives of their family units and even their villages at large by creating employment opportunities and building much needed resources.

Entrepreneurship is a tool for personal and collective empowerment and can potentially create great shifts of change.

Social Entrepreneurs Aren’t Concerned About PROFIT

I always thought a social entrepreneur was someone who figured out a way to make money while (or through) contributing to, or driving, social change. I was wrong!

A social entrepreneur is foremost concerned about alleviating a social issue. Their marker of success is their ability to make an impact and foster change in their area of concern. The bottom line for entrepreneurs, on the other hand, is monetary gain.

Nevertheless, social entrepreneurship operates like regular business, but with different types of benchmarks, goals and objectives. Like any business, social enterprises are time-consuming to build. They are scalable. They need investments and employees.

I kept wondering though, how can people devote so much time as a social entrepreneur and just NOT be concerned about money?  Answer: They PAY themselves. DUH! They create financial models that sustain their administrative costs, including paying employees and the entrepreneurs themselves. This can be through grant funding, donations or may be built into the system that also fuels the giving aspect of the business.  Salaries can be as handsome or meager as the social enterprise allows and is able to maintain.

Let Passion & Purpose Be Your Guide

In describing how Kiva got started, Jessica uses the word “scrappy” quite often.

Kiva co-founders’ friends and family were their first investors, providing small amounts of money to help a handful of specially selected entrepreneurs in Africa. They put together a simple website to help make this happen and share the entrepreneurs’ stories and progress.

Scrappy means that they didn’t wait to implement perfectly crafted, well tested, tech-savvy systems before they started. Nor did they wait for any financial backing. They just DID IT! They stated simple and tweaked things as they went along. They were led by their passion to help others, and this passion was enough to get them going. They were purpose-driven, and it couldn’t have been possible for them to fathom the $750 million impact they would have today.

Jessica also says that people felt that passion and enthusiasm for the cause, and wanted to be involved without being probed to do so. The website took off without much effort and they received press without soliciting it. Jessica believes that the “scrappy” passion they were working with, pulled on people’s desire to become a part of Kiva’s mission.

Moral of the story… Realness pays off. Always.

Check out this and other courses at



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