Deshpande on Entrepreneurship-Part 26: How can successful professionals take part in social enterprises?

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Desh Deshpande

By Desh Deshpande

(Editor’s note: This is Part-26 of the weekly video column with philanthropist and serial entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, with excerpts from his book “On Entrepreneurship and Impact.” This column appears every Monday.)

Desh Deshpande

The world is filled with successful professionals.

They might be successful corporate executives or entrepreneurs who have done well.

People who’ve set aside enough money to take care of their needs, who don’t have to work to pay their bills.

Increasingly these professionals are looking to use their talents and their time to make a bigger impact.

Their focus shifts from making money to making meaning; from achieving success to creating significance.

As they ponder their next step, they have a common question: How and where can I get started on my social impact journey?

The good news is that there are multiple ways for a successful professional to get involved.

It depends on how much of their time, energy, mindshare and money they are planning to set aside for the next phase of their life.

For example, they can join a social enterprise in any of the following roles, as:

  • Donors or funders to fund the ecosystem that nurtures social entrepreneurs
  • Board members to provide counsel and strategic direction
  • Advisors to provide input and guidance using their key expertise
  • Volunteers to help by contributing their time, talent and capabilities
  • Full or part time employees in building an organization

Two highly successful social impact organizations – Agastya and Akshaya Patra – have tapped senior executives including former CEOs of large corporations to join their team. These executives have demonstrated the humility and desire to work at a non-profit and help people in need.

In my observation, I see that successful people who join social enterprises in their second innings are much happier than their contemporaries who might have attained success but are bored.

In their first innings, people are successful because they take risks, and solve problems.

They derive joy in solving big and complex problems.

Yet what can be more challenging than solving some of the trickiest social issues?

Many of our societal challenges are chronic, grand in scope and scale and, of course, very complex.

Attacking these challenging problems and trying to solve them is the best way for successful people to keep alive and vibrant.

If you are a successful professional who is getting bored, make sure you engage in one or more social impact projects and take on these big challenges. These organizations not only need your time, energy, money and mindshare, but also your vast experience from your successes in the corporate or entrepreneurial world.

Since the spectrum of involvement is wide, you can start anywhere from the sidelines as a supporter to an active role working at an organization or anywhere in between.

Whatever your choice, I can promise that it will be an enriching journey.

(About Desh Deshpande: During his entrepreneurial career spanning over three decades, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande has built several companies. He has injected his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship into a number of social impact initiatives in India, the USA and Canada. He has been recognized for his entrepreneurial accomplishments by many institutions including being named co-chair of President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He currently also serves as a Life Member of the MIT corporation. He resides in Boston together with his wife, Jaishree.)

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