How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent

“Currently, social entrepreneurship is as much a field as it is a movement,” explains Beverly Schwartz in the introduction to her new book, Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World.

“A whole new generation of ethical change agents—whether in business or academia or the media—is building a new sensibility about the way we live and interact,” she says, noting that these social entrepreneurs “begin by having a clear picture of the end in mind—the end being the creation of an emerging social phenomenon that cannot be reversed. They do what I always hoped I could do—confront difficult issues and actively pursue a more just, secure, and sustainable world.”

The movement, and Schwartz’s book, are garnering plenty of praise.

“With Rippling, Beverly Schwartz has advanced thinking and practice about entrepreneurial endeavors that strive to transform systems,” says Pamela Hartigan, our August 2012 Entrepreneur of the Month, who is the director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. “Her key contribution lies in the practical aspects of becoming a changemaker, whether or not one sets out to start one’s own venture, or join the growing ecosystem of organizations springing up around the world to support these pragmatic visionaries and their teams.”

Financial Times contributor Sarah Murray agrees. “From toilets for slums to technology linking small-scale farmers with international markets, Rippling takes readers on an inspiring journey to places where smart ideas and innovative business models are tackling big global problems. This is an important and timely book for anyone interested in new solutions for our complex and fast-changing world.”

Who are these change- makers?

For Schwartz, it is a group of organizations around the world that have won grants from Ashoka, an international organization that she has worked with for years as its senior marketing counsel, and now as its VP of global marketing.

“All of Ashoka’s Fellows (the people Ashoka deems to be leading social entrepreneurs and elect into a lifelong Fellowship of like-minded people) ripple their innovations through society by influencing other social entrepreneurs, the policy development process, and the actions of the private sector,” she shares.

Having worked with hundreds of these groups, Schwartz says the Fellows all possess four inherent qualities:

  • Purpose: They put society above personal interests, and are firmly focused on fulfilling their chosen role.
  • Passion: This connects to spirit, and relates to strength of character, determination, and connection to others.
  • Pattern: They cultivate new ground, and put together a new combination of solutions—or come up with one that no one has ever configured in such a way.
  • Participation: They are unanticipated leaders, people who have the remarkable ability to influence people and have them believe, follow, and encourage them to join in.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

That quote, by community leader and entrepreneur Divine Bradley, is fleshed out in living detail for the remainder of the book, which highlights 18 social entrepreneurs and their organizations.

Each of the five sections is organized by the principles that drive long-lasting, systematic change: restructuring industry norms, changing market dynamics, using market forces to create social value, advancing citizenship, and cultivating empathy.

Not only are these profiles illuminating and inspiring—they are educational tutorials that show us how social entrepreneurs are changing how business is done throughout the world.

In the introduction, for instance, Ashoka founder and CEO Bill Drayton (pictured above) offers a challenge to every entrepreneur, entitled, “Are you ready for the big one?” Schwartz and Drayton agreed to allow us to reprint his essay in our Futurists column this month. Click here to read his provocative essay.

And here’s more good news. Starting with the September issue of Be Inkandescent magazine, Schwartz will be writing our new Social Entrepreneur column. We invite you to check back regularly for her insights into how you can find purpose, passion, and pattern—and participate—in this new movement.

For a preview, below are three of the 18 social entrepreneurial companies that Schwartz explains are restructuring institutional norms around the world. Do take the opportunity to read about all of companies profiled in “Rippling” by clicking here. Here’s to being a changemaker!

Power to the People: Elektrizitatswerke Schonau, Germany
Ursula Sladek is the founder of one of the largest eco-electricity providers in Europe, and the largest that is run by citizens. Its aim is to decentralize and democratize the energy supply, putting it at the nucleus of a continuously expanding national network of independent power generators utilizing a range of technologies. Learn more here:

The Teaching of Teaching: Center for Inspired Teaching, Washington, DC
Aleta Margolis is the executive director of this organization that the third-generation Washingtonian founded to aid the struggling public school system. Learn more here:

From Servitude to Solution: The Centre for Rural Development, India
Dr. Pradip Kumar Sarmath is the executive director of the Centre for Rural Development, headquartered in Guwahati, India. A former veterinary surgeon, he is helping to elevate the status of thousands of rickshaw pullers by helping them achieve ownership of the rickshaws, and gain access to bank loans and insurance guarantees to raise themselves and their families out of the cycle of generational poverty. Learn more here:

About Beverly Schwartz

Schwartz joined Ashoka as senior marketing counsel from Fleishman Hillard, an international communications agency. At Fleishman, she built and helped manage its social issues portfolio, using her expertise in social marketing as the foundation for the portfolio. She also developed and directed Fleishman’s domestic and international social impact portfolio and was project director of the non-advertising portion of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s “Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.”

Schwartz´s interest in social issues spans most of her career. In the mid-70s she was executive director of the Minnesota Association for Nonsmokers and was instrumental in passing the nation’s first state law banning smoking in public places.

Subsequently, at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she helped design and manage the first U.S. education/prevention campaign for HIV/AIDS, “America Responds to AIDS,” and simultaneously directed the Office on Smoking and Health’s public information function. In other lives, while at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Schwartz developed a project that provided free eye-care for the indigent elderly, along with the Reagan White House, Apple Computers, and the Mitre Corporation (the project is about to mark its 20th year of operation).

At the Academy for Educational Development, she worked globally on the problem of education reform, with an emphasis on getting and retaining girls in school in developing countries, on civil society issues, and on changing health and environmental behaviors.

Schwartz is dedicated to promoting the field of social marketing. An associate editor of the Social Marketing Quarterly, she is also a Steering Committee member of the annual “Innovations in Social Marketing Conference.” The focus of her Master of Science degree while at the University of Minnesota and the City University of New York was behavioral science. Learn more here:

Click here to buy Rippling.