Interview: Echoing Green’s Lara Galinsky on trends to look for in 2011
As the Senior Vice President at Echoing Green, Lara Galinsky supports the next generation of social entrepreneurs. She is the co-author of Echoing Green’s book Be Bold, which illustrates how people create careers with impact. Echoing Green is gearing up to release its second book this spring and hopes to encourage more young people to join the social entrepreneurship movement. Dowser asked Galinsky about what ideas and changes she sees emerging from young innovators in the months and years ahead.
Dowser: Based on the most recent group of fellows you’ve selected at Echoing Green, where do you think the field of social entrepreneurship is going?
Galinsky: This year we received 2,854 applications, and that is a significant increase from the year before. I believe that’s an indicator of growth in the sector and we are certainly getting more young people who are interested in working in social entrepreneurship and creating social change, so that’s very exciting. I’d walk into a room even five years ago and ask people if they’d heard of the field of social entrepreneurship or Echoing Green, and only a few hands would go up. Now, it has completely flipped. There are even offshoot fields of social entrepreneurship now, the impact investing field for example. The fact that the head researcher for JP Morgan is calling impact investing a new asset class shows that this sector is gaining significant force.
How do you think the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved in the last couple years?
Based on what I’m seeing now and in the past couple years, I think the field is just going to continue to grow. Some of the areas where I think the field is going to evolve, are we’re going to have more universities offering masters in social enterprise, hopefully there will be more of a robust funding pipeline, and more organizations that can flesh out this pipeline so that social entrepreneurs are carried through to scale. I’m seeing more for-profits forming, so there might be more legislation or legal shifts to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to structure their organizations in a way that allows them to have the maximum impact on their constituency.
As the social entrepreneurship movement gains force and more organizations offer support and investment, how do you think it will be defined on a global scale?
The field is not quite as robust as it needs to be yet because of the fact that there is still no definition for a social entrepreneur. It’s easy for someone to say they are a social entrepreneur, but there also isn’t any way to disprove it, except through these selection processes like the fellows at Echoing Green. If people are amplified by the title, I think that’s a good thing and I’m not sure it makes sense to exclude certain people based on a definition. However, people are looking for hope and solutions, and social entrepreneurship has become a field that is based on solving problems; we aren’t just treating symptoms anymore. This recognition of living a life of meaning is significant for the movement and what will ultimately shape the definition of social entrepreneurship.
What are some of the most interesting ideas you’ve seen from fellows in the past year?
It’s hard for me to answer that question because it’s like asking who’s your favorite child? But, our applicants are pioneering really interesting ideas and in terms of any trends developing, I’d say we’re seeing people have more product-based ideas, and many of them are bottom of the pyramid products. For example, a low cost portable incubator for babies in the developing world. Incubators are not available in many countries, and so fellows are recognizing products as a social solution in particular settings.
What’s next for Echoing Green, and what goals do you have for the organization in the coming year?
We’re producing our second book, which will be coming out in the spring, called Work on Purpose. The goal is to inspire more young people to join the movement of social entrepreneurs, and to help them live up to their highest potential as change-makers. We understand that not everyone has an idea for a social enterprise, but there are more and more young people out there who can dedicate their careers to being change makers by working on behalf of these movements. The book profiles five Echoing Green fellows on their journey to figuring out their best and highest purpose. We want to help others realize that they can make career decisions around change making too.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of Echoing Green