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Coaching Social Entrepreneurs:
Changing the World One Client at a Time

C.J. Hayden, MCC

There's a revolution going on right under your nose. A new sector of the economy is employing 40 million people worldwide, and engaging 200 million more as volunteers. Instead of focusing on a profitable bottom line, the enterprises in this new arena are choosing to pursue a "triple bottom line" of people, planet, and profits. The leaders of this movement are called social entrepreneurs, and you can coach them.

Social entrepreneurship is an innovative blend of social action and entrepreneurial strategies. These new enterprises take a variety of forms, and come in all sizes. Some are organized as for-profit businesses dedicated to social change. Others are nonprofit organizations paying their own way with income earning enterprises. Still others are professionals in private practice who offer their services pro bono to people in need.

Consider the Grameen Bank, a "social business" founded by Muhammad Yunus. Grameen was established to provide collateral-free microloans to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh. Grameen now has over seven million borrowers, and a 95 percent repayment rate. It is the first and only for-profit business to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Or the Delancey Street Foundation. Founded by Mimi Silbert and John Maher to help substance abusers and the homeless get back on their feet, Delancey Street accepts no government funding. More than 65 percent of their funds come from businesses run by the clients themselves: a moving company, restaurants, a print shop, and more. The businesses serve as vocational schools, teaching job skills to the clients. Over 14,000 people have turned their lives around at Delancey Street.

Or San Francisco chiropractor Dr. Juan Campos, who began making an annual trip to El Salvador to offer pro bono chiropractic services. He asked other chiropractors to join him and in 2005 his Chiropractic Mission to El Salvador attracted 17 chiropractors and 34 students, providing chiropractic care to 24,000 Salvadorians. Every volunteer paid his or her own way to participate.

What these enterprises have in common is that they apply business principles and entrepreneurial skills to address social issues. They use the spirit, creativity, and drive of motivated individuals to make a positive difference in the world. And those individuals need coaches. Social entrepreneurs are out to change the world. When you coach a social entrepreneur, you have the potential to change the world with your coaching.

In many ways, the challenges of coaching social entrepreneurs are the same as coaching other clients with large-scale dreams. But there are some differences. Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new and little-known field, so social entrepreneur clients often have a difficult time finding mentors, business models, and road maps.

To become a more powerful ally to these clients, take the time to learn more about the field yourself. Visit the Websites of organizations like Ashoka or the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge. Read books like David Bornstein's How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. Expanding your own knowledge and horizons will help you keep your clients pointed in a focused, practical direction.

Social entrepreneurs may also experience more than the usual number of critics and naysayers. It's a common occurrence for well-meaning folks to tell social entrepreneurs their vision is too big or their dream is impossible. But social entrepreneurs achieve the impossible every day.

Be prepared to champion and acknowledge these clients frequently. Challenge them to new heights of learning and achievement, and call forth their greatness. Especially in the early stages of a venture, you may be the one positive voice that keeps your clients going, despite all odds.

Social entrepreneurs can be demanding clients to coach, but the work can be incredibly rewarding. Imagine what it feels like as a coach to know that your clients are helping inner-city youth find jobs, or bringing solar power to villages in India, or providing free dental care to families below the poverty line.

Social entrepreneurship is not just an appealing idea; it's a growing, worldwide movement. Maybe you should get on board.

Copyright © 2009 C.J. Hayden. All rights reserved.
This article was written for the International Coach Federation's Coaching World, and has not been printed elsewhere. If you would like to print it in your publication, please contact me for details.

C.J. Hayden is the best-selling author of Get Clients Now! and Get Hired Now! Since 1992, she's been coaching entrepreneurs to build enterprises that make a difference. She is a frequent speaker on topics of social entrepreneurship, activism, and purposeful careers, and an advisor to social ventures.

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