Jessica Jackley – Inspiring Future Social Entrepreneurs

Delving deeper into Jessica’s thoughts on sustainable business and social entrepreneurship, she revealed some of her plans for the future as well as some of the frustrations she has about the attitudes of businesses and non-profits.

Jessica is helping the next generation and passing on the baton through academia. “I’ll be at the University of Southern California teaching social entrepreneurship and it’s been announced that I will be the first Social Entrepreneur in Residence at the Marshall School of Business in USC. This will involve me meeting with students and Alumni to think through their social enterprise centric ventures.”

Fortunately, her expertise won’t be limited to students in California as we found out. “I’m on the national board of Habitat for Humanity but I’m also working on my next venture that will be focused around new ways for people to participate in what they care about, supporting different issues on a more regular basis rather than once a year at a big fundraiser gala, so it will incorporate crowdfunding and micro-philanthropy.”

Opening up about obstacles that she has come across, Jessica revealed some of her frustrations from both sides of the entrepreneurial coin. “I get frustrated when entities are bad at communicating well to all the constituents that they need to. You see these non-profits all the time that have this amazing imbalance, they’re doing amazing things but they’re not communicating it to funders, or vice-versa.”

“I am shocked just how many successful business people don’t understand fundamentally what a non-profit is and why it’s different. But I get most frustration on the corporate side when there’s this assumption that businesses have the corner market on being experts, being smart, getting things done, on being efficient. That’s not the case. I think there are non-profits which are so good at storytelling and marketing themselves that businesses can learn from that.”

There was plenty of optimism about the future, though, as Jessica was excited to explain. “The good news is the world is shifting. People care. They’re asking questions. Consumers want to know the story behind the product they’re buying more. And not just the easy stuff, they don’t want to participate in an entity that is doing things that they don’t believe in.”

“Businesses that have proactively decided to talk about their social impact are going to win in the end! Everybody has a social impact, whether it’s good, bad or ugly, it’s just the people who are talking about it, and thinking about it, and owning it, they’re ahead of the game.”

In terms of future trends and keys to success in the world of social entrepreneurship there was an awareness of the change in mentality but also an acknowledgement of a certain degree of luck. “I heard Bill Gross talk about the number one factor when launching a new venture as being timing. At Kiva we were lucky that we launched the year [Muhammed] Yunus won the Noble Prize – it was the year of micro-finance, it was the right time to be more in the public consciousness.”

“People are recognising that [micro-finance] is a valuable and, eventually, profitable segment of the market so you see a lot of for-profits, non-bank financial institutions and also mainstream banking diversifying, reaching down-market and working with clients that they haven’t before.”



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