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6 qualities of successful social entrepreneurs

by The NonProfit Times - May 9, 2011

So, what makes a successful social entrepreneur? In his book “How to Change the World,” David Bornstein disputes the common assumption that highly successful entrepreneurs are more confident and persistent than most others.

Instead, he found that what distinguishes successful social entrepreneurs is the quality of their motivation; they were the ones who were most determined to achieve a long-term goal that was deeply meaningful to them.

With this, he sets out six qualities of highly successful social entrepreneurs:

  • Willingness to self-correct. Inclination to self-correct stems from the attachment to a goal rather than to a particular approach or plan.
  • Willingness to share credit. A willingness to share credit lies along the “critical path” to success, because the more credit entrepreneurs share the more people will want to help them.
  • Willingness to break free of established structures. By doing this, entrepreneurs can gain the freedom to act and the distance to see beyond orthodoxy in their fields.
  • Willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries. Independence from established structures not only helps social entrepreneurs break free of prevailing assumptions but also gives them latitude to combine resources in new ways.
  • Willingness to work quietly. Many social entrepreneurs spend decades steadily advancing their ideas.
  • Strong ethical impetus. At some moment in their lives, social entrepreneurs get it into their heads that it is up to them to solve a particular problem.


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