Living and Giving

Social Entrepreneurship–Part One

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I recently wrote an article about social entrepreneurship for the book, Great Enterprise Publication: The People\’s New Deal: Creating a New Civilization through Social Entrepreneurship.  I\’d like to share this article with you here, divided into a few focused sections.

For those of you interested in social entrepreneurship, here\’s a bit about my personal journey.  Comments welcomed!

In Service to Our Communities, Pamela

Beginning in Mexico

Over the past decade, Social Entrepreneurship has been leading the charge as “the innovation” which will impact our communities.  It’s generating a new wave of leaders: Social entrepreneurs are seen as a catalyst to deliver high impact results in our communities.  At its best, social entrepreneurship is a balance of business and service.  I’d like to share part of my journey in practicing social entrepreneurship while founding UniversalGiving, as well as identify the Top Three Factors of Good Social Entrepreneurs which may help new and existing social entrepreneurs.


At the age of 12, I had a moving family experience in Mexico: I’d been walking in the community with my father, and we stumbled upon a cult-de-sac of maimed, begging, unwashed children. I was shocked and deeply hurt to see humanity in this condition. I remember something to the effect of ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ being stamped across my mind. It’s stayed with me every sense, this relentless drive to serve and help provide opportunities for others.


At that point I decided to devote myself to our communities and began volunteering.  As time progressed, I enjoyed the service component, but was challenged by the lack of efficiency in some organizations. Critical in my development as a social entrepreneur was this balance between 1) service and compassion and 2) an organization led by business principles. It’s important to note, however, that inefficiency can happen in nonprofits, forprofits, governments, churches. It’s not fair to label nonprofits inefficient; it’s not the legal structure.  It’s about positive, effective management and governance, which can take place in any entity.  It’s about leadership, which led me to Bill Drayton and Ashoka.



I’d heard of Bill Drayton and his early work on social entrepreneurship in the 1960s, which I had found very inspiring.  At such an early stage, he seeded and mobilized thousands of social entrepreneurs all over the world. The emphasis was on evaluating the qualities of leadership of the self-starter entrepreneurs, who due to their leadership, ethics and integrity, led and managed effective initiatives that could be scaled worldwide. I also studied and met with Jed Emerson at the Roberts Economic Development Fund, which focused on nonprofits running a business, or businesses providing a social good, which provided some very successful social models.


A pivotal moment surfaced in graduate school: An extremely inspiration speaker and serial social entrepreneur, Peter Samuelson, challenged us to consider ‘entrepreneurial philanthropy’ as a new way to operate. At the time, he stated, “It’s either social entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurial philanthropy” – the ability to create and scale high performance organizations and services in a rapid fashion. We must adopt this mindset that we can effect change across the world with increased acceleration and efficiency. I’ll accept nothing less.  Do it today.”  


I was hooked, inspired; mouth gaping.  I had finally found my calling: the marriage between my drive of soundly run business, and still serving the community!  As I spoke with my father and shared my inspired, teary revelation at age 25, he encouraged, “That’s great! Now how do you get paid for this?”  Good question.   To get it right, I knew I wanted to be a part of creating the social entrepreneurship leadership and culture.   At that point I completed my graduate studies in communications, bent on being a social entrepreneur.