After spending our first session of the Social Enterprise Conversation Series talking about the core concept of a social enterprise — the next step was to dive a little deeper into the core principles and practices that inform HOW we go about being a social enterprise.

Our session started out by talking, appropriately, on where one should start when building a new enterprise, or describing what one does.

As the session got underway, we warmed things up by having everyone in the room describe what they do. As we went around the room, it quickly became clear that we had an amazing group of folks with us. And what happened next only amplified that perception.

Matthew and Ashley had brought an amazing friend, Alan Webb, to help us all get a little clearer on how to describe ourselves, and what we do, in a way that really connects with our audience. Alan is leading a small group of people to make big change in the field of higher education, and we’ll have more about those efforts at the end of this post.

Alan started by showing everyone a remarkable TedTalk video by Simon Sinek, entitled How great leaders inspire action. Watch a few minutes of the video , either with the link above or in the embedded player below, to find out how it is that great leaders like Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs inspired action and built great organizations, and why they succeeded when thousands of others were just as resourced and talented.

The short answer to Sinek’s question, and the core of his talk, is that great leaders, and great organizations, start with “Why.”

Following up on the first exercise of the evening, the workshop’s participants went around the room and described their organizations, or their own personal work, again – but opened their descriptions this time with why they did what they do, instead of starting with what they do or how they do it.

Social Entrepreneurs from Asheville, NC describe why they are starting their social enterprises.
Here are the “Whys” of the social entrepreneurs who joined us in this session.

It was immediately apparent that these “why-centric” answers were both more engaging and more interesting to the group as a whole than the first round of pitches. But why?

Talk to the lizard in my brain…

In essence, the decision-making parts of our brains are connected most deeply and tightly with our emotional side. The goes way back to the roots of our evolution, when we relied on instincts and feelings to guide us through the decisions needed for everyday survival; many millennia later, emotions still drive even the most “rational” of us in our decisions today. As our next infographic shows, people will buy (or march) people they believe in – they will buy WHY you do things, and that why, that belief, will connect far more deeply with their decision-making centers than a series of features.

As this set of notes from Alan Webb’s talk shows, starting with “Why?” helps us sell our ideas right to the evolutionary core of the brain, where decisions are often made.

Alan also brought out another great talk, from business thinker Richard St. John. Richard talked about some core principles and practices that drive overall business success (highlighted in the video below), and laid the foundation for the final part of our class.

These concepts and principles paved the way for the final part of our session, which focused on bringing out a series of core practices and principles that drive successful social enterprises. The practices and principles from the session are laid out below, alongside a set of principles and practices that Mycelium co-founder Matthew Abrams developed for his graduate capstone project at SIT.



Social Entrepreneurship Practices Taken From Nature, Applied to Business, from Mycelium Co-Founder Matthew Abrams

These practices and principles lay out the foundation for starting and running a successful social enterprise, and are a great tool to bring with you in any project or enterprise. They were the last component of our conversation this week, but before we wrap up, let’s get a little bit into the Open Masters Program

The Open Masters Program

Alan Webb, our speaker for the evening, has spent quite some time recently co-creating the Open Masters Program. This program revolves around creating environments and programs for higher education that are Open, Experiential, Social, Transformative, Credible, and based around Abundance. Long story short, this is co-education and self-directed learning in a peer-supported environment. It’s really, really cool, and part of a whole wave of transformative work going on in higher education right now. Check out Alan’s own personal site to see what he’s working on learning right now, and the Open Masters Program site to learn more about that particular model.Co