I don’t remember when I first heard the terms social entrepreneurship and social innovation. Perhaps it was when I read the book Gaviotas in which some engineers in Columbia are described as making a water pump for a well that uses a children’s see-saw to generate the energy to run the pump. The idea was to use this in developing country schools to improve water quality. It was such an elegant and beautiful solution- I was captivated. The core ideas are so direct and compelling:
social innovation: feasible ideas to solve problems that are urgent and over-looked
social entrepreneurship: sustainable organizations that solve urgent problems. Implicit in sustainable is generating enough resources- people, finance, knowledge, energy- to exist and grow.
So, when Carolina started working with me on this project of fostering and promoting social entrepreneurship and innovation, I knew what we were promoting and fostering. But, I did not know what to call “it.”
We have good tag lines- like
Real Problems. Real Solutions.
Ideas in Action
Hands and Heads
United to solve
But what about the larger name that precedes such pithy summaries of what we are doing?
Names matter. I want to be able to say, “we work on _____________.” And the blank should be a clear, memorable, meaningful term.
Honestly, I am sick of writing entrepreneurship; it took me about four years to learn to spell it correctly! With the rise of social media (I am looking at you, Facebook), the meaning of the modifier social can get lost. In social entrepreneurship we don’t mean a new app to link your Pinterest account to your “friends” cat likes on her Facebook stream.
Our Project Versus the Term
So, one complication for us is also labeling and branding this “project.” See, I can see it going in many directions and having many pieces. I love how my colleagues have been talking about the “entrepreneurship” ecosystem because it captures the larger goal of more business forming while also referencing a set of linked hubs and activities.
So, for example, I like the title of the blog, “simple tools to change the world.” We played with the blog and any other online materials being called the Hub, or the emPOWer hub, or something along those lines.
Or maybe it is simply a name reminiscent of a place. Like a company calling itself Blackwater or something like that. Or Bletchley Park in the UK which became synonymous with the linked efforts to counter Nazi Germany. For example, I have always liked the term “Topias” to play off of u-topia which literally means no place- as in no place can be perfect. Topias is about real places, about making real change, not chasing dreams of the infinitely distant perfect.
I could say we are creating the Bucknell Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. But, problems abound. Firstly, there is already good work being done here. I never wanted to divide resources or attention. We are part of a larger ecosystem here. Center can be a good word to mean not just a place, but a set of people or resources. I like the “drop in and look around” quality of a “center” as opposed to an “office.” But, as of now, there is no ‘center.” This is what led us to play with terms like hub, project, or network. Still, whichever of these we use, we are still left with term confusion.
The ____________ hub.
The _____________ network.
The Network for ______________.
Quest for a Term
Quest can be dangerous. Are we on one? Didn’t Arthur’s quest for the holy grail end pretty badly?
But, setting aside mythical or real concerns about the feasibility of the term quest, what are the options?
First, the raw material… some terms out there include-
- social innovation (thanks Stanford’s Social Innovation Review!)
- social entrepreneurship (I think Ashoka coined this one.)
- social ventures (not sure)
- conscious capitalism (that is Mackey of Whole Foods, but it means something broader too)
What are some options?
When Carolina came along, I was using the acronym SiSe in my own notes (Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship). But, saying “sissy” is a deal-breaker. We could go all Hispanic and say “See Say”, like “Si, Se” in Spanish which is roughly, “Yes, I know.” But, well, too complicated.
Carolina told (admitted) she has been using SEI. I see her point, social can modify both. But, SEI either sounds like a competitor to REI if we say each letter (Ess Ee Aye) or a boring software product. It can be pronounced as “Se,” as in I know in Spanish, but not obviously. Moreover, how is “I know” meaningful for the goals of SEI?
Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship
Damn. Just such an ugly mouthful.
I am as sick of the word organizations as I am entrepreneurship. Also kind of vague. And, social innovation is about ideas, objects, products. So, this is too narrow.
What do you think? Are there other ideas?
Do we even need a better term? Maybe the solution is to name the project and then overtime it is a stand-in for the muddle of terms in SiSe.
“What does Carolina do?”
“She is working on Topias.”
“What is that?”
“Topias is a project to do good works, to build better tomorrows, by fostering social innovation and entrepreneurship in, by, and around Bucknell.”
Where ‘Topias” could be
- Bucknell SiSe (and all variations on Bucknell + SiSE or SEI or SIE)
- BASE (Bucknell Action on Social Entrepreneurship)
So, where the matter stands.
Term for SIE: needed.
Name for the Project: possible candidates exist.
Tagline: good candidates exist.
Note: Thanks to Richard Kedzior for spending some time with Carolina and me on this one afternoon!