Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Lunch with (and some great advice for a budding social entrepreneur from) Jack Sim

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to have lunch with the founder of the World Toilet Organization, Jack Sim, a truly global social entrepreneur, an Ashoka fellow and a Schwab Foundation award winner.

The World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a global non-profit organisation committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. WTO focuses on toilets instead of water, which receives more attention and resources under the common subject of sanitation. Founded in 2001 with 15 members, it now has 151 member organisations in 53 countries working towards eliminating the toilet taboo and delivering sustainable sanitation.

Having worked in politics and as a social innovation and business consultant, I'm now embarking on setting up a social investment/ impact investment innovation lab. So, I asked Jack what his three pieces of advice for a budding social entrepreneur like me are. He replied:
  1. Showcase the problem not yourself: Jack commented that too often social entrepreneurs get caught in the fame trap; always trying to promote themselves. As he said "fame can be a great servant but is a very poor master" and by focusing on the problem, you are seen as a champion for your cause and not a self-promoter.
  2. Deliver don't just talk: In Jack's experience, he has seen so many social entrepreneurs just go to conferences and talk without actually building the organisation they lead. Tragically this means that they miss the opportunity to achieve systemic change in their field and make the world a better place.
  3. Focus on the need first, not the money: Too often, Jack stated, social entrepreneurs chase after the next bit of cash and compromise on tackling the need; he feels mission drift is a trap that many social entrepreneurs fall into. Some of Jack's final words to me were "if the need is compelling enough and you demonstrate you are solving the problem, the money will always follow".
Jack, thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment