Bill Drayton sees a world where 'everyone is a changemaker'
Bill Drayton founded Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, which now has put about 3,000 social entrepreneurs into the field all over the world, three decades ago. A college professor once described him as having "the determination of Job and the brains of a Nobel laureate." Says Drayton: "The life purpose of the true social entrepreneur is to change the world."
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In 1980 something [else] very profound happened. All around the world except for a few places like Burma [Myanmar] where government got in the way the citizen sector shifted and became entrepreneurial and competitive. And over three decades, which in a historical time frame is short, it's been catching up fast with business in productivity, scale, and globalization.Skip to next paragraph
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So now both [business and social service organizations] are entrepreneurial and competitive and there isn't that much difference in scale and productivity.
Don't social entrepreneurs often provide a service or goods to their customers? Isn't that like a business?
Everything for thousands of years has been hierarchies of repetitive functions. And that's going away. The hierarchy, which only really works for repetitive functions, can't function in a world that's defined by change.
To contribute to that world you have to be a fluid team of teams. [You ask] "This change is going on over here. Now, how can we contribute to that change process?" How you contribute today is going to be different from how you contribute in two days. And so the team of teams is constantly changing. There's no way where a hierarchy of repetitive functions where only a few people are allowed to think can deal in that world.
So whether it's a large traditional social service organization, and you can quickly think of some, or a large bureaucratic corporation, they're both dead. They will not be able to deal with this environment. And the future is for the entrepreneurs in any sector.
Once you have a team of teams, everyone has to be a player. And you better be able to see and contribute to change to be a player.
There's a very powerful logical to this. It's all driven by the underlying historical fact that the rate of change is still escalating exponentially. And so are the number of changemakers. And so are the combinations of changemakers.
The old concept of an organization with stable boundaries is rooted in a world where things didn't change perceptibly.
Are you optimistic that we can make this change to a entrepreneurial society?
I'm actually more worried for the US than for some other countries.
I believe this is so much in everyone's interest that once people see it, that we're going into an "everyone is a changemaker" world, you develop a set of skills to deal with that type of environment. You don't have to change every day. You keep applying those skills, you strengthen them. But you're contributing to change rather than doing the same old thing over and over.
Some people are going to respond [to change]. They will do well. Their organizations will do well.
Silicon Valley, what is it? Bangalore [India], what is it? It's a place where all the changemakers go. And they go there because the other changemakers are there and [changemaking] institutions are there. Not just one institution but a whole ecosystem of institutions are competing to attract changemakers and allow them to work together in this sort of fluid, rapidly changing way.
The half-life of any product or service just gets shorter and shorter. The thing that's stable is: How many changemakers do you have? At what level of skill? How well do you work together? That's the key factor for success going forward, and it's true for an individual, a company, a citizen group, a religion, a country.
You don't have to imagine this. There are islands of this new world already in place. In the digital world, for example, that is the culture.
I would think in the nonprofit world there's been a suspicion of capitalism, of using the same techniques that businesses use? Is the genius of social entrepreneurship showing people who have good intentions that there is a more effective way to carry out those intentions?
Yes. When we got started there literally wasn't a word for social entrepreneurship. We had to invent it.
I can't tell you how useful [the term] is. My mother, who has always loved me, she struggled for years. "My son Bill is sort of a lawyer..." and then she'd crumble into incoherence. And now all she has to do is say "He's a social entrepreneur. And that's good." So a simple thing like that makes a big difference.