Excerpt: How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

by David Bornstein

Read the stories of people around the globe who are solving many of the world's most intractable problems.

    Published by Oxford University Press
    February 2004; $28.00US
    ISBN: 0-19-513805-8
    Buy from Amazon.com

Excerpted from Chapter 1
Restless People
The Emergence of the Global Citizen Sector

Social entrepreneurs have existed throughout history. St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, would qualify as a social entrepreneur -- having built multiple organizations that advanced pattern changes in his "field." Similarly, Florence Nightingale created the first professional school for nurses and established standards for hygiene and hospital care that have shaped norms worldwide. What is different today is that social entrepreneurship is developing into a mainstream vocation, not only in the United States, Canada, and Europe, but increasingly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In fact, the rise of social entrepreneurship represents the leading edge of a remarkable development that has occurred across the world over the past three decades: the emergence of millions of new citizen organizations.

Consider that twenty years ago Indonesia had only one independent environmental organization. Today it has more than 2,000. In Bangladesh, most of the country's development work is handled by 20,000 NGOs; almost all them were established in the past twenty-five years. India has well over a million citizen organizations. Between 1988 and 1995, 100,000 citizen groups opened shop in the former communist countries of Central Europe. In Canada, the number of registered citizen groups has grown by more than 50 percent since 1987, reaching close to 200,000. In Brazil, in the 1990s, the number of registered citizen organizations jumped from 250,000 to 400,000, a 60 percent increase. In the United States, between 1989 and 1998, the number of public service groups registered with the Internal Revenue Service jumped from 464,000 to 734,000, also a 60 percent increase. Given the long history of citizen activity in the United States, it comes as a surprise that 70 percent of registered groups are less than thirty years old. And during the 1990s, the number of registered international citizen organizations increased from 6,000 to 26,000.



Historically, these organizations have been defined in the negative -- as nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations. Today they are understood to comprise a new "sector," variously dubbed the "independent sector," "nonprofit sector," "third sector," or, the term favored in this book, the "citizen sector." Hundreds of universities in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Duke and Johns Hopkins, have established college courses and centers to study this sector. A Johns Hopkins study of eight developed countries found that, between 1990 and 1995, employment in this sector grew two and a half times faster than for the overall economy. Peter Drucker, the management expert, has called this sector America's leading growth industry.

Although public service organizations are far from new, this worldwide mobilization of citizens is new in several respects:

(1) It is occurring on a scale never before seen;
(2) The organizations are more globally dispersed and diverse than in the past;
(3) Increasingly, we find organizations moving beyond stop-gap solutions to more systemic approaches to problems -- offering better recipes, not just more cooking;
(4) Social entrepreneurs are less encumbered by church and state and, in fact, exert considerable pressure on governments (as witnessed in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the creation of the International Criminal Court);
(5) They are forging partnerships with businesses, academic institutions, and governments -- and, in many cases, refining the government's representational function; and;
(6) Because of the natural jostling for position that occurs when a formerly restricted sector suddenly enjoys "open entry" and new players crowd onto the field, the citizen sector is experiencing the beneficial effects of entrepreneurialism, increased competition and collaboration, and a heightened attention to performance.

Despite their magnitude, these changes have gone largely unreported. Almost everyone knows about the explosion of the dot-coms -- a much smaller phenomenon -- but millions have still not heard the big story: the worldwide explosion of dot-orgs. It is a story with far-reaching implications: By sharpening the role of government, shifting practices and attitudes in business and opening up waves of opportunity for people to apply their talents in new, positive ways, the emerging citizen sector is reorganizing the way the work of society gets done.

Excerpted from Chapter 13
J.B. Schramm, USA, College Access
The Talent Is Out There

 

In the late 1980s, while attending Harvard Divinity School, Jacob ("J.B.") Schramm first recognized the college "market gap." To pay his way through graduate school, Schramm had taken a job as an academic advisor to freshmen. Each year he had to review the admissions files of thirty newly enrolled students. Reading through the applications from low-income students, he frequently came across handwritten notes in the margins: "Wish we could find ten more like him!"

After graduating from divinity school, Schramm, then twenty-eight, moved to Washington, D.C., where, in 1991, he became the director of the teen center at the Jubilee Housing Development. There he saw the college "market gap" from the other end of the pipe. The students with top grades and test scores were zipping off to college. Ivy League schools sought them out. But the vast majority of the kids Schramm worked with had average grades and test scores, and colleges paid little attention to them.

There was a reason. Colleges have systems to identify low-income "stars." They buy lists from the College Board and compete for the top students. All communities launch their academic stars, but only the middle- and upper-income brackets regularly launch their "mid-tier" performers.

The seniors in the teen center all told Schramm, "Yeah, sure, I'm going to college." But two months after high school ended, he would find many of them hanging out on the street. "A year later, their eyes were dulled," he said.

What went wrong?

"Absolutely mundane things," recalls Schramm. "I'd hear: 'I sent the application incomplete and never heard back. I only applied to two schools and didn't get in.'" Schramm discovered that most of these students' parents had not attended college themselves. They had difficulty guiding their children through the application process. And many of the students didn't really believe that they were "college material."

But Schramm saw them differently. "The kids who had middling scores had other things going on," he recalled. "One had written a screenplay. Others took care of brothers and sisters. Some were outstanding artists. Or one day there would be a fight, and I'd see a kid do something wise and courageous. Then I'd see the application and know there's no way the college is going to know about this kid's grit and moxie. But if you saw the kid handle challenges in the teen center, it was crystal clear. For me that was the 'aha!' moment. The challenge was to get the colleges to see these kids as I saw them. Because many were better than their numbers suggested."

In 1993 four students -- Theresa, Desmond, Yonday, and Alimamy -- approached Schramm asking for help getting into college. They were smart kids with lots of ability, but their grades and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores were average. How to convey their potential? Schramm believed that a heartfelt essay could make a difference. "I had faith that if people told a part of their story that was important to them, it would convey their strengths to another human being in a way that nothing else could," he said.

He called Keith Frome, his closest friend from divinity school, who had taught expository writing to freshmen at Harvard, and asked him to come down from New York to Washington for a weekend to help the students write essays that would "jump off the desk." "Keith was the best writing teacher I had ever seen," recalled Schramm.

On the Amtrak train, Frome designed a curriculum based on writing theories he'd studied at Harvard. It would begin with ten minutes of unstructured "free writing," in which students would be encouraged to scribble random thoughts without editing themselves. Afterward, they would read the pieces aloud while the other students took note of images and phrases that stuck in their minds. Frome called this process "gold mining." Everyone's comments would be written on charts taped to the walls, a process that would both validate the students' thoughts and help them identify guiding ideas for their essays. Then the main job would be to remind the students to show what they mean, not just to tell it.

When Frome arrived in Washington, he and Schramm ran out to buy pencils, markers, butcher block paper, and masking tape. By late Sunday the students had first drafts of their college admission essays.

Then Schramm called up Derek Canty, a youth motivator whom he had met on a Flyers' excursion to Colorado, and invited him to Washington to conduct a motivational "rap session" for the students. Schramm wanted to help them identify personal obstacles that might derail their college plans. "Derek was without question the best youth facilitator I'd ever seen," he recalled.

In the months that followed, one student enrolled in Brown University, one went to Montgomery County Community College, and the other two received full scholarships to Connecticut College, a liberal arts school in New London. Lee Coffin, who was then dean of admissions at Connecticut College, recalled: "Most college applications from low-income students fail to provide a good picture of the kid. The essays are flat. The recommendation letters consist of a single paragraph or even just a sentence. We're asking ourselves: 'If we accept the kid, can he succeed?' We're looking to predict the future. So when the kid doesn't have the numbers, you need something else to hang on to. And these kids told evocative stories that gave a vivid sense that they were succeeding against the odds."

In 1994 four more students went through the same process. All four were also admitted to colleges. "The difference between someone who is an entrepreneur and someone who isn't," explained Frome, "is that I went back to my job, but J.B. knew that we had invented something unique. He saw it. And he refined it and bottled it."

* * *

By August 2002 nearly 4,000 students had passed through the program that Schramm had created: College Summit. Ninety-five percent were minorities: 50 percent African American, 35 percent Latino, and 10 percent Native American. The average grade point average (GPA) was 2.8. College Summit reports that, between 1993 and 2002, the college enrollment rate for high school graduates who attended its workshops was 79 percent; retention was 80 percent. According to the U.S. Census, the national enrollment figure for high school graduates at similar income levels is 46 percent. (There are no national data on college retention rates.)

In addition to the intangible gains, college graduates can expect to earn $1 million more during their working years than high school graduates and contribute $300,000 more in taxes. In first-generation college families, graduates generally establish new patterns of achievement that carry forward in siblings, cousins, and children. Says Schramm: "That young man who is the first in his family to get a college degree has basically ended poverty in his family line forever."

Copyright © 2004 David Bornstein

For more information, please visit www.howtochangetheworld.org or www.writtenvoices.com.

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