The inventor of "social enterprise" says: When routine is for machines, humans must be "changemakers"


Another post this week which shows there's a real search on - to find the term that captures the bearers of a new politics. 

In the New York Times, columnist David Brooks visited William Drayton, inventor of the term "social entrepreneur" and founder of the Ashoka network, and asked him for hopeful signs. Here's what he came back with:

Drayton believes we’re in the middle of a necessary but painful historical transition. For millenniums most people’s lives had a certain pattern. You went to school to learn a trade or a skill — baking, farming or accounting. Then you could go into the work force and make a good living repeating the same skill over the course of your career.

But these days machines can do pretty much anything that’s repetitive. The new world requires a different sort of person. Drayton calls this new sort of person a changemaker.

Changemakers are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and then continually adapt as situations change.

For example, Ashoka fellow Andrés Gallardo is a Mexican who lived in a high crime neighborhood. He created an app, called Haus, that allows people to network with their neighbors. The app has a panic button that alerts everybody in the neighborhood when a crime is happening. It allows neighbors to organize, chat, share crime statistics and work together.

To form and lead this community of communities, Gallardo had to possess what Drayton calls “cognitive empathy-based living for the good of all.” Cognitive empathy is the ability to perceive how people are feeling in evolving circumstances. “For the good of all” is the capacity to build teams.

...The central challenge of our time, Drayton says, is to make everyone a changemaker. To do that you start young. Your kid is 12. She tells you about some problem — the other kids at school are systematically mean to special-needs students. This is a big moment. You pause what you are doing and ask her if there’s anything she thinks she can do to solve the problem, not just for this kid but for the next time it happens, too.

Very few kids take action to solve the first problem they see, but eventually they come back having conceived and owning an idea. They organize their friends and do something. The adult job now is to get out of the way. Put the kids in charge.

Once a kid has had an idea, built a team and changed her world, she’s a changemaker. She has the power. She’ll go on to organize more teams. She will always be needed.

...Ashoka has studied social movements to find out how this kind of mental shift can be promoted. It turns out that successful movements take similar steps.

First, they gather a group of powerful and hungry co-leading organizations. (Ashoka is working with Arizona State and George Mason University.) Second, the group is opened to everybody. (You never know who is going to come up with the crucial idea.) Third, the movement creates soap operas with daily episodes. (The civil rights movement created televised dramas with good guys and bad guys, like the march from Selma.)

More from the NYTimes. And more on the Changemaker theory.