Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 17, 2009

What brings you to social enterprise?

road through forest“What Brings You Here’ is is the question posed at the beginning of Kevin Lynch & Julius Walls, Jr.’s book Mission Inc: The Practioner’s Guide to Social Enterprise which I’m currently reading.

The two authors then summarise their own journeys and how they ended up running social enterprises.

Kevin Lynch was also an entrepreneur from the early days of sub-contracting out his newspaper delivery job to his sister’s for a lower wage than he was getting to set up his own ad agency. He struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for a number of years during that time.

Kevin talks of the spiritual reawakening he had as he went through the Twelve Step recovery programme as part of Alcoholics Anonymous as being coupled with a social reawakening as he realised the corruptness of industry he was in.

Without spoiling too much of the story he was introduced to the Social Venture Network in the US, focused his work in the ad agency on the social sector and then made a move to Rebuild Resources. Rebuild Resources works with addicts and alcoholics giving them jobs in the businesses they run.

The other author, Julius Wall Jr, work in a chocolate factory in Brooklyn, New York for 12 years where he ended up in a management position – it was unusual at the time for an African-American to have such an opportunity. He left to set up his own chocolate company, spent time training as a priest and then ended up volunteering at Greyston Bakery. He stayed on at the organisation working as a consultant and then Director of Operations. He is currently serving as CEO and President of the Greyston Foundation.

He describes his work today as:

“a combination of business, priesthood, leadership and advocacy … my experience have shaped me into someone who wants to contribute my energies, skills and efforts toward positive, life-changing impact.”

That got me thinking – what brings me here? What brings other social entrepreneurs to this point in their journeys?

What are our stories and how have they led us to a point where we are wanting to dedicate our lives to bringing social change and using social enterprise to do it?

For me the key things in my story really centre around the fact that all I ever wanted to be while I was growing up was a teacher. Back then I was thinking in terms of primary kids – but then after 2 years at Uni doing that I realised how bad I was at it. All through my teenage years I volunteered in children and young people’s work.

I then came across the issue of homelessness and spent the next 7 years working in that sector. Firstly, working directly with the homeless people helping them to take steps forward towards a stable and secure life. Then I moved to teaching local community groups how to work with homeless people. It was here I discovered social enterprise – when we ran out of funding and had to look to generating income to survive. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable 2 years doing a part-time MA in Social Enterprise at the University of East London because of that.

The next part of my life involved working with charities on their organisational development, business planning and social enterprise development. This then became The Tool Factory which is where I am today – developing resources and software for social entrepreneurs and teaching social entrepreneurs on the University of East London’s BA in Social Enterprise.

Looking back, and following the themes of my life the focus has been on supporting and empowering others. This is where my Personal Mission Statement has come from:

“to empower others to achieve their potential”

Mission Inc: The Practioners Guide to Social Enterprise

For me I’m at my happiest, my most effective and my most fulfilled when I’m able to work towards achieving this. There are two other elements to this – my calling, I suppose you could call it – my ‘spiritual discontent‘ and ‘my strengths‘. I’ll post on those over the next week.

For now though, the question to consider is this:

What brings you here?

Ponder on that for a while and then Read the book



  1. […] the last post What brings you to social enterprise? I was talking about how our own personal journeys often create the direction of our calling. For […]

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