Monday, February 18, 2008

Notes from a Vocab Lesson

Ludovic sent me an article today about the definition of social entrepreneurship.

To tell you the truth, I thought the article was a little long and sleepy, so please read at your own risk, but it was semantically enlightening, so I'll pass along what I learned.

First of all, it introduced me to the term "suboptimal equilibrium." This is what a change maker senses and attacks. It's a market or some combination of markets and policies and culture that has created a persistent bummer of a situation.

Naturally, it made me think about the suboptimal equilibrium we're trying to break with our brand comparison project. It's a big one: suboptimal to the extreme. It's an economy in which consumers don't demand that businesses operate cleanly, honestly, and humanely. Consumers are inadequately educated about our market options, and businesses are offered inadequate incentives to get sustainable. I have a visual image of the equilibrium as a thick swarm of spinning, whirring feedback loops levying the edges of a morphing blob of liquid trouble. Reminds me that we have to attack the thing from lots of angles at once.

Apparently, according to the article, attacking the equilibrium from the enlightenment, knowledge dissemination, and education angle makes me something other than a social entrepreneur.

The successful social entrepreneur takes direct action and generates a new and sustained equilibrium; the social activist influences others to generate a new and sustained equilibrium; and the social service provider takes direct action to improve the outcomes of the current equilibrium.

I'm an activist.

It's a bit funny for me to think of things that way, especially given the recent post in which I claimed that I can't be an activist. I see the logic in it nonetheless. What we're doing is making consumers aware of the suboptimal nature of the current equilibrium and helping them define a better one. Hopefully, by doing that, we'll make market entry easier and market domination more plausible for the real, semantically proper social entrepreneurs.

As long as I'm contributing on the disruptive side of things, I'm happy.