Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Existential Crisis of Social Entrepreneurs and Social Intrapreneurship.

I called myself a social entrepreneur--it’s a cool title for an unemployed, hyperactive attention deficit, and idealistic student. I consider myself privileged to have the opportunity to attend law school on my GI Bill and have the opportunity to try and become a socially responsible capitalist. I promised that I would not give up until I have achieved.

Two years later, I realized becoming a social entrepreneur is a difficult thing. I have no capital, no real technical skills, no team of college buddies with mad skillz to hang with, drink beer all night, and work out a smashing new technology. Instead, I have post-war illusions about reality, close friends scattered across the globe. I have developed a terribly shy personality but also adopted an uncommonly extroverted drive to achieve; along with it I have a deathly fear that I may never make it in the real world.

Philosophically, I pondered my chances of becoming the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs; my existential chances are slim. Pragmatically, I devoted large part of my time getting good grades, learning how to write well, learning the laws and hoping to make sense of my messy life that started in the Gobi, to Beijing, to Cincinnati, to San Antonio, to Seattle, to Mosul, and finally coming to Indiana; with many cities in between. I desperately try to reconcile my identity as a Chinese America, or an American Chinese; I am hopelessly lost as a globalist, a environmentalist, a humanist.

I wondered if I am doomed. If I can’t make it as a social entrepreneur, am I bound to the irresponsible corporate machines that I so desperately wanted to avoid? Is creating my own capitalist opportunities the only way?

emla.deviantart
I once had a friend who said “be like the water, find your way.”

So I did.

I accepted a summer job with a big law firm. "Sell-out," I can already hear it now.

What drew me to the opportunity was the firm's willingness to accept my passion and their interest in my work so far. I felt this may be an opportunity to continue my work; being married now I also felt a sense of relief—at least I can take care of my family with an acceptable income when needed.

So is it the end of my social entrepreneur dreams? Can I leave my grand hopes of changing the world in the hands of the reputation of a profession deemed just below selling used cars?

Last night I had a dream; I dreamt that I was back in Mosul, side by side again with the infantry and empty of ammo. I shouted for more and no one answered. I shouted louder and a line appeared before me leading me down to the city. I knew what I had to do: the help I need is down below, in the city—in the thick of things. If I can’t fight the battle from above, without ammo, I must fight the battle down below with my hands if necessary.

I woke this morning and fate pointed me to a new word. I love new vocabulary, especially one that Microsoft does not recognize: social intrapreneurship. I chewed on it a bit and looked up some articles about the term. It seems there is hope after all.

My father once told me that it matters not what one does for a living so long as one devotes fully and passionately. He spent his entire life chasing a cure for cancer in DNA research. At his old age, he is proud of his sons and regrets nothing. I hope I can say the same.
_____________________________________________________
Social Intrapreneurship is the action of a social intrapreneur. A social intrapreneur is someone who works to develop and promote practical solutions to social or environmental challenges and acts as a social entrepreneur inside a major organization. - Wiki.

I have spent the last three years of my life learning as much about sustainability. I have developed a skill set that incorporates process improvement, sustainable building principles, and I have roughly defined some of my legal and philosophical ideals. My wife tells me that working for a law firm that also focuses on some of the core values I believe may help me establish more experiences and contacts to make my eventual dream of social entrepreneurship possible.

All in due time, she says.

Patience is a virtue and life is a mystery. We shall see what tomorrow brings. In the mean time, The Green Elephant will continue. Rethink(i3) will also live and perhaps in a different form. I am considering restructuring it into a content creation entity. Regardless, I shall do as I have always done--give my best and live another day to fight another good fight for social change.

www.paulthurlby.com
There is more than one way to change the world; many methods and many paths--choose well.

the green elephant Headline Animator