- Written by David Bryan
As we grow as individuals through childhood and adolescence, our view of the world moves from a focus on our own immediate needs to those of people around us, incorporating more complex emotional and spiritual needs. As leaders in adulthood, we can continue what Kate Cowie called in her book Finding Merlin our ‘quest’, ultimately progressing beyond an 'Organisational Stage’ to a 'World Centric stage’, in which short-term organisational gains give way to more holistic thinking and decision making.
The concept of a ‘global mindset’ embraces this wider perspective. It acknowledges that we as individuals are part of a global community, linked through not just travel but purchasing decisions or the sharing of innovations, insight and philosophies
The Homeless World Cup has reached more than 40 countries. The concept of ‘zero waste’ took root in social enterprise in New Zealand before spreading to becoming government policy in Scotland. The potential of the micro-finance model was illustrated by female entrepreneurs in Bangladesh before being acknowledged globally as an effective means of stimulating social change.
A global mindset can be summed up by the phrase ‘action at a distance’ – what we do in our corner of the world has an impact on others, who may well be remote in space and time. But it also embraces a concern and interest for other cultures, valuing them intrinsically, an interest that goes beyond any immediate financial or other gain.
Social enterprise is a natural vehicle for a global mindset. It is at once both a local and global phenomenon.
Individuals and communities may initially come together to find enterprising solutions to local social, economic and environmental challenges, however, a willingness to share innovation is inherent in the sector’s culture. Where the private sector might tend towards secrecy and patenting, social enterprises are driven by the goal of social change and this permits and in fact, requires sharing as a philosophy. Social media has enabled innovation to spread across the globe. The emergence of supra-national structures to support this, such as the Social Enterprise World Forum, has followed easily.
As a global social enterprise community, we are still early in our journey, but some key learning points have emerged:
- Although definitions of social enterprise vary, there is a common theme around valuing people, cultures and the environment above wealth
- The challenges faced by marginalised people across the world are strikingly similar – powerlessness, poor political representation and a lack of access to finance and land
- Empowering individuals and communities to address small local challenges can quickly grow into larger-scale initiatives that have an impact on a wider scale than initially conceived
The concept of a global social enterprise community is now becoming a reality. Like any community, it is maintained by the interactions of individuals – and it’s by coming together in person, not just remotely, that these relationships are cemented.
At the Social Enterprise Academy our ‘communities of practice’ around learning and development, encompassing people and organisations on five continents is a small but growing part of this global community. The opportunities I’ve had to meet social entrepreneurs, from Canada to Pakistan, never fail to remind me that as we strive and sometimes struggle to overcome the daily challenges of running a social enterprise, it is this global dimension which can both sustain and challenge us to achieve more.