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Top 15 Social Enterprise Aphorisms

My first reaction on seeing this (Top 100 Social Enterprise Truths) post from Pop-Up Social Enterprise Think Tank’s: What! Are there so many? My second reaction, halfway through my perusal: No way are people going to go through the entire list! And my third/last reaction after I reviewed the entire list: Hmm… Interesting! Several resonated, a few were plain funny, and I didn’t care for a few. My journey in discovering and writing about Indian social entrepreneurship has been brief, yet I succumb to a temptation to create my curated subset of aphorisms. In my first curation pass, I created a list of twenty-five, then iteratively whittled it down to fifteen. Instead of force-fitting it down further to a typical Top-10, I sorted the list such that the first ten are my true Top 10 and the remaining five are probably more truisms than aphorisms.

1. Even if you call them a client, an end-user or beneficiary, the customer is still king.

2. More-than-profit is better than not-for-profit (profit’s not a dirty word).

3. Social entrepreneurship isn’t a career, it’s a calling (do something before you take the label).

4. Edison was right (1% inspiration, 99% perspiration).

5. Don’t scale up before the model’s proven, however much noise & encouragement there is.

6. Social entrepreneurs’ work has a ripple effect: mobilizing and inspiring others to get involved.

7. Social enterprises overestimate what they can achieve in the short-term, and underestimate it in the long-term.

8. Underpromise and overdeliver: all too rare in social enterprise.

9. Imperfect action is almost always better than perfect inaction.

10. A three-year government contract is no more sustainable than a three-year grant.

[11.] Scale of impact is more important than scale of organization (or scale of ego).

[12.] There’s more truth spoken over drinks and meals at a conference than on the stage.

[13.] Measuring social impact is where financial reporting was 200 years ago (so don’t beat yourself up).

[14.] Beware the self-styled social entrepreneur; normally means it’s more about self and style.

[15.] If a pound was donated each time a social entrepreneur quoted Gandhi, no-one would need to fundraise.