You are not alone: the myth of the lone social entrepreneur

As humans we can feel alone for many different reasons, even when we are surrounded by people. Think about big cities and crowded places.  Often loneliness comes from inside us and doesn’t relate to what is going on around us.  So what does loneliness have to do with social entrepreneurship..?

Sometimes in life we are caught in the reality of day to day living – we work, we earn money, we spend it. For some people that’s enough, knowing that they are able to live a comfortable life and save for the future. But for some, this is a life that is holding them back from reaching their full potential. That was me a year ago. Having climbed the career ladder within different charities I suddenly realised that I didn’t want to climb anymore as I actually didn’t want to reach what was at the top. I took a scary decision, one which did not turn out to be easy at first, I had the choice to take another well paid role in the organisation I was working for, but instead I accepted redundancy.

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I decided it was time to take control of my life.  Much to the panic of my parents I then spent the following months on a journey of self discovery. I read books, I researched, I studied an online course in Social Entrepreneurship with Oxford University, I took unpaid internship roles, I applied and was accepted for a Programme Manager role in Kenya in the summer and for the first time in a long while…I felt free. Even though I had no plan, I was sure that this way I would be able to work out what I was meant to be doing in life.

Through the wonders of the internet I started to reach out, connect, read, discover, talk and learn about people who were making a positive impact all over the world. I started to read more about social innovators and social entrepreneurs, people who were braving it and changing the status quo. They were doing things differently but most importantly they were passionate and driven and they were not going to stop until they had made a change. The more I read, the more I realised how connected I felt to these people, their drive, their passion and their impatience to make a change.  But most importantly, I realised that they were not afraid to be different.

I decided to take the step and tell my parents that I wanted to set up my own social enterprise, that I had found my calling, that I knew this is what I was supposed to do in order to reach the potential I believed I had. If I had listened to their advice I would not be sitting here right now in Kenya, running our pilot programme for _SocialStarters and planning for our launch in India. I would be back in another role, at another desk in London, looking out of the window and wondering what would have happened if I’d taken that risk.

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Looking out over the skyline in Kisumu, Kenya from the Duke of Breeze rooftop.

Sometimes it’s lonely thinking differently but what I have learnt is that self belief is a very powerful tool.

As the social entrepreneur Bill Drayton (founder of Ashoka) famously said:

“Here’s my advice: The first step to becoming a changemaker (the only secure job going forward) is to give oneself permission, i.e. to ignore — politely, of course — all those who say ‘Don’t do it”

Well thanks Bill, that exactly what I did.

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