Pioneers to Heropreneurs

Around the 90s, we had this debate: founder driven organisations v/s institutionalising NGOs with modern management & governance practices. Some felt that the programmes and project should be handed over to the CBOs. But then would the motivation of the leaders then change?

At the turn of the century, we had a round of "social entrepreneurs", quite a few of them Ashoka scholars, people who took up a problem, immersed themselves in a situation, and found an economically viable manner to tackle a situation. Good examples of these are Dharani Coops of Timbaktu, ChildLine, Grassroutes.

Now comes the age of "heropreneurs"-  who pursue a career path that promises opportunities to save the world, gain social status, and earn money, all at the same time. That big idea, solved by an app or two.  Many of them have not immersed into a situation but have relied on an eco-system set up by CBOs and NGOs for decades.  But this eco-system is also changing.. sometimes in direct competition with the new "heropreneurs" due to the changing character of funding. 

Daniela Papi-Thornton points out in Tackling Heropreneurship: To really change a system, people need a more holistic set of skills, including systems thinking, an understanding of collaboration tools to further collective impact, and lateral leadership skills such as the ability to lead without power and to galvanize movement toward a common goal across a diverse and disjointed solutions ecosystem. They also need a grounded understanding of themselves and their skills, such as how they like to work, which roles in a team best fit their skills, and if/how their risk tolerance fits with the range of social impact career options. Finally, if they plan to take a leadership or strategic role in solving a problem, they need a deep understanding of the reality of that problem.

A similar issue was raised by K J Joy at the Vikalp Sangam where he spoke of the difference between the "alternatives framework" and the earlier political/systemic approach.. namely that the movements who represent an alternative framework for transformation, need to showcase the conceptual overview rather than individual project, and therefore their intervention would be more conceptual. We must aim for a balance between the experiential and the conceptual. Video Excerpts from the Vikalp Sangam Discussion on Sharing