In the rich discussion about social entrepreneurship there is a key issue which I feel is many times left unmentioned or just vaguely stated: what is the role played by our spiritual being, our life force, in this field – on the social entrepreneur as well as on the rest of stakeholders, the rest of society. It is evident that a strong spiritual motivation is present in the mind and private sphere of most of these initiatives, but we do not seem to be able to put it on the table for discussion, to learn more about how it operates. We usually stay on the “means” field: processes, scale, measurable impact. We get trapped in the world of words, of rationality, and tend to ignore the side of the brain (what was it? the right side?) that Pedro Tarak mentioned in the closing panel of the World Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires that we should pay more attention to: the intuitive and creative side.
I was impressed by the BMW Foundation’s highlight, from the previous Mumbai forum, of Ghandi’s phrase: “be the change you want to see in the world”. This catches precisely what I mean: we speak about bringing about change, but how hard do we try ourselves and how well prepared are we to bring about change for others? Change in what? In the sphere of actions, I think there is no doubt: social enterprises have a huge potential to bring about practical improvements in the quality of life of millions. But is this the only level in which we ought to operate? Is this alone what will bring about profound and durable change, the kind of change that will help humanity take a more decisive leap forward in its evolution as a spiritual being? Maybe, but I wonder: I think humanity has always, always, had the means to solve basic issues like poverty. More so in the last centuries, when we have achieved impressive technological breakthroughs. But what we have never been able to do is to solve our insufficient capacity to sacrifice for others, to love others more, to forget more about ourselves, our egos. Our tools are more sophisticated now, but we use them in basically the same way. As I heard once from a friend: “the problem is in the hearts and minds of people”. Maybe it is time we try harder to learn about the link between these two spheres, “the hardware and the software”, the real spiritual intent of our actions, and its implications.
Some disciplines of science (for example neuroscience and quantum physics) have been telling us in the last decades that reality might just not be as we thought it was. Not even time and space appear as certainties any more. Science ends up using words that used to belong to the fields of philosophy or religion, at a time when we could be going through a new “Copernican revolution”, a change of paradigm, the center of which is how the human mind is affecting, and creating, reality, and how the outside is not different from the inside, but part of a whole, a unity. What implications does this have on social entrepreneurship? I think it should get us ecstatic: we really have the power to do whatever we can imagine. It is just a question of getting enough people to firmly believe in something for that something to become real. See if not how “real” was the impressive economic growth the world experienced for many years, and how “real” is now the crisis. And in between, what has “really” changed? “Real” was the immense power of now fallen dictators in the Middle East (as Hobbes said, “Ilusion of power is power”). What is the fortune of an unhappy millionaire “really” worth for him or her? In the end, we live in a world of perceptions. But are they our innate, deepest perceptions, or are we nothing but still blindfolded beings, disconnected from our own internal wisdom?
I used the word “love” in the title because I think it conveys the idea of forgetting about oneself. In fact, when one is in love, does one care about profit or personal gain? Scale? Measuring anything? I think not. On the contrary, one feels inspired to give, to give oneself and even all of one’s possessions. To act intuitively, free of the defined. It is known that in the history of humankind many people have done quite “crazy” things motivated by love. Crazy according to who’s standards? So what if we could bring some of that “crazy” motivation into social enterprise, and in fact into all of our human acts.
The first thing I can think of is in the uselessness of so much expenditure in the military, worldwide, but from the most evident we can then move on to the least and most difficult: what is the intimate motivation of my own acts? Am I doing the best I can, as a being that in the very end “will leave no more trace than a stone, thrown into a river, leaves on the surface of the water”? What is my purpose in life? What am I here to do? We tend to give our individual selves too much importance, when individuality might, after all, end up being nothing but an erroneous – or only a very partially valid – point of view.
I am under the impression that social entrepreneurs have the opportunity to bequeath to society, besides new ideas and business models, the legacy of a motivation for action based on the love for others; a motivation rooted in a profound existential meaning and purpose that can permeate to the leaders of the rest of the spheres of society – and from there to all.