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Stephan Chambers

October 20th, 2023

Four Guiding Principles for Social Entrepreneurs

1 comment | 6 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Stephan Chambers

October 20th, 2023

Four Guiding Principles for Social Entrepreneurs

1 comment | 6 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

This blog is an extract from Stephan Chambers’ welcome speech to the inaugural cohort of founders who are taking part in the 100x Impact Accelerator programme at LSE

For decades, social entrepreneurship has been guided by a familiar triad of principles: purpose, belief, and scale. Social entrepreneurship itself, is a conflation of the social (purpose) and the entrepreneurial (scale).   As our world grapples with increasingly complex and multidimensional issues—ranging from enduring problems like poverty and inequality to emerging challenges like data privacy and ethics—we cannot afford to rely solely on the principles and approaches that served us in the past. Besides, the whole point of the social economy model is to fix what the aid and charity sector and, obviously, the commercial market failed to fix. There is a need now to look further; beyond purpose to clarity, beyond scale to impact, and beyond belief to evidence.

Over my (metaphorical) bed there are four (metaphorical) post-it notes.  One says ‘don’t track the index’, one says ‘clarity not purpose’, one says ‘impact not scale’, and the last says ‘evidence not belief’.  I’ve thought a bit about these post-it notes and want to share with you why they’re over my bed.

Don’t track the index

You’re fortunate people occupying a privileged position at a very famous university. That will take you quite a long way even if you do nothing differently. It’s vital that you outperform that trajectory of privilege.

Clarity over purpose

I want to argue for clarity over purpose. Lots of us are clear in our purpose (we want the world to be better). Many of us are unclear about what we’re doing, how we will achieve purpose, what needs to change and how we’ll change it and how we’ll measure the effect of our actions.

As founders it is vital that you answer these fundamental questions: What problem are you solving? Who are you helping? How are you doing it differently or better than others? Simple questions that are very hard to answer.

Impact over scale

Be super ambitious about impact and be sensible about scale. Growing your impact is more important than growing your organization.  Think really hard about what you’re scaling and make your clients the centre of that thinking. In a for-profit business growth and scale are easy to define. In our world focusing on the quality of change you bring about in people’s lives and communities is often hard and usually disputed. As you focus on impact you will forge deeper connections with your clients and stakeholders and foundations for long-term success.

Evidence over belief

Belief, like purpose, is necessary but not sufficient. It’s what pushed most of you to start your ventures. You saw a problem and an opportunity to address it. There is always an element of passion, belief, and conviction that you can solve a problem and that your innovation or approach are going to work.

Data-driven decision-making is the bedrock of effective social impact initiatives. Collecting and analysing data allows you to understand the real-world effects of your interventions, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate the value of your work to supporters, donors, and partners. Evidence not only enhances your credibility but also ensures that your efforts are truly making a difference. It’s not enough to believe in your mission; you must also prove its effectiveness.

You’re part of 100X because we think you can have extraordinary impact.  Our commitment to impact is through you and we’re very excited about working together.

About the author

Stephan Chambers

Stephan Chambers is the inaugural director of the Marshall Institute at LSE. He is also Professor in Practice at the Department of Management at LSE and Course Director for the new Executive Masters in Social Business and Entrepreneurship. From 2000 to 2014 he directed the University of Oxford’s MBA and was the founding Director of Oxford University's Executive MBA programme. Before joining the Marshall Institute Stephan Chambers was the Co-Founder of the Skoll World Forum, Chair of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Director of International Strategy at Saїd Business School, Oxford University. He is a Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford and a Director of the Documentary Society Foundation. Stephan Chambers wrote a regular entrepreneurship column for the Financial Times and, in 2014, was special advisor to the Skoll Global Threats Fund in California.

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