Changing How We Think About the Opportunity for Social Entrepreneurship
Marcus Whitney, SEA member and Summit15 speaker, has a vision: entrepreneurship, when put in the hands of as many people as possible, will lift communities out of poverty, give people the tools to succeed in an unequal economy and teach youth how to effect change within themselves, their businesses and their surroundings.
The idea isn’t revolutionary when you think about our country’s past. Whitney points out that entrepreneurship, family-run businesses and independent enterprise helped build the U.S. But today’s entrepreneurs – the Zuckerbergs, Bloombergs and Dells – are strikingly similar demographically speaking. Whitney believes there are entrepreneurial success stories just waiting to emerge from low income communities, minorities, women, new Americans and others – the group he calls the “unlikely entrepreneurs.”
Through his Unlikely Company, Whitney is working to bring entrepreneurship to these unlikely entrepreneurs, and in turn, re-democratize the field. His book, Create and Orchestrate, will give everyday people the skills to start their own businesses by sharing best practices and stories from other entrepreneurs who beat the odds. In partnership with Nashville’s Oasis Center, Whitney will launch Oasis Venture, an after-school accelerator program that will teach low-income high schoolers how to create and run social enterprises. Through his Kickstarter campaign, Whitney is working to raise money to fund the book and Oasis Venture.
It’s no coincidence that one of Whitney’s first objectives in launching Create and Orchestrate was supporting young social entrepreneurs. Reflecting on his own story, Whitney acknowledges that college is not for everyone. Entrepreneurship was the path that enabled him to discover himself and be a creative, economically stable asset to his community.
“Once you see things through an entrepreneurial lens, you see everything differently,” Whitney asserts. He hopes that giving young people the entrepreneur’s mindset will help them see opportunity where they previously saw challenges and teach them to create their own structures, rather than deal with the existing setup.
In this way, Whitney won’t just be teaching the youth at the Oasis Center how to create businesses. He’ll also be showing them how to take ownership of problems facing their communities and create real societal value through their entrepreneurial ventures, ideas and efforts. In turn, Whitney plans to listen as well as teach, learning from these high schoolers’ own experiences and using this to impact his book.
Through his work, Whitney is proof of the power of entrepreneurship when used to effect social change. Learn more about his vision at Summit15 in Denver in September, check out his Kickstarter campaign to support his efforts, and learn more at MarcusWhitney.com.
Written by Joe Tropeano from Social Enterprise Alliance