Posted by: Charlie | February 3, 2010

A Culture of Generosity (Cross Post on

This is part 4 of an 11-part series on Undergraduate Social Entrepreneurship coordinated by the Social Innovation Initiative at Brown University posted on

There is a culture of generosity embedded in the principles and institutions of social entrepreneurship. After all, social entrepreneurship emerged out of a demand for both nonprofit values and for-profit strategic impact, and tries to draw the best from both fields.

But while traditional entrepreneurs may favor “lone wolf” innovation, social entrepreneurs are inherently, well, social. Grassroots community organizing, volunteer-ism, charity giving and a deep commitment to social justice inform our social methods. To tackle global issues, we rely upon the generosity of our network.

Why are individuals in the social sector generous? Because entrepreneurs in the social sector know that the more that you give, the more you get in return. This lesson is slowly leaking into the private sector, too. Seth Godin’s latest e-book What Matters Now exemplifies that generous people will garner generous attention.

This ethic is especially true in a student setting, where competition is low and collaboration high. As a junior in college, I co-hosted a dinner for social innovators to answer the question: “How can we help each other?” Around the dinner table, we critiqued each other’s projects in global health (Mali Health Organizing Project), food security (Gardens For Health International), and conflict resolution (Strait Talk). We worked in diverse fields, but had a common need: each other. Today, this round-table format — an open forum dinner with skilled and generous listeners — is a cornerstone of Brown’s Social Innovation Initiative. We needed each other’s critical feedback, diverse skills and open networks. Together, we helped each other fund-raise and rethink our marketing plans, and inspired one another to take our projects beyond the safety of school walls.

Across the country, a proliferation of university support for student social entrepreneurs is on the rise. What’s more, in the same way that social entrepreneurs have for years, universities are now using the same culture of generosity to build their programming. The team at AshokaU, for example, has convened Change Maker campuses around the United States, sharing experiences and programming to enhance the entire sector.

Generosity spreads. This principal is evident in the proliferation of open sourcing in the social and private sector. Generosity gives back. Online fundraising is changing the way we make change. Generosity comes back. So, what did you do for somebody else today?

Photo Credit: micah.e


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