We’re in the final turn of August and I hear the footsteps of fall. Believe me, when you live in Michigan, they crunch like snow and are jet-engine loud.
Fall also means my return to the classroom. Despite a lifelong love affair with summer, returning to the classroom is stimulating and helps keep me intellectually alive. I’m lucky to have found my groove where I get to teach, research, write about, and work on issues that are truly important to me — creating a more just, equitable, and prosperous society.
But this wasn’t part of a master plan. I studied music (composition), liberal arts (math and psychology), and then computer science and complex systems before becoming a professor in a business school. Here, I have researched search engines (I’m one Kevin-Bacon-degree away from being there when Google was created), information-sharing software, and other technical issues in information technology before I began to be involved with helping address societal problems.
Many of our innovative solutions to societal problems likewise arise without a fully formed plan.
You may know about Muhammad Yunus, who thought he was donating $27 to the Bangladeshi poor. He unintentionally launched the modern microfinance movement.
Interview subjects for a book I’m researching on early-stage social entrepreneurship include:
One social entrepreneur who has developed an organization that has sold 50,000 affordable ceramic water filtration devices to the poor in the Dominican Republic and Haiti (FilterPure). Why? Because, despite having no previous business background, her experience of life in the Dominican Republic compelled her to give back.
Another founded an organization that has become a world leader in preventing human trafficking (Polaris Project). Its genesis? Its founder, learning of this atrocious, little recognized disgrace, felt an unshakable need to take a stand against it.
Others found their outlet because of chance phone call. A missed flight. A mugging. A vague promise to give back.
So, what are you waiting for? So many causes cry out for attention. The opportunities for social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are everywhere. Don’t wait until everything lines up perfectly before you act.
Can you hear the footsteps? Maybe they’re not of fall but of a future you can only discover by pursuing it.