Is Anna Hazare a role model for Social Entrepreneurs?

5th Aug 2012
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Social Entrepreneurship is a very delicate term. As Wikipedia defines it, "Social entrepreneurship is the recognition of a social problem and the uses of entrepreneurial principles to organise, create and manage a social venture to achieve a desired social change" but whenever one talks about a social change, it is assumed that monetary gains is not a big involvement. As the notion goes, while a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur measures positive returns to society. It is also a dictum that "social entrepreneurs are more human" which many a times doesn't go well with the social entrepreneurs themselves. People look at social entrepreneurs as being more kind hearted while others entrepreneurs as more ruthless and money oriented.

The whole association stems from the fact that money, greed, lust and everything material are very closely related. It is an innate human tendency to categorize social as something good. But talking very straight, a venture or an initiative impacting people is a social enterprise, even if it is purely for monetary gains. Even if a person is doing good for the society but with the sole intention of getting money through it, it is social entrepreneurship. The whole concept of 'social entrepreneurship' might crumble down if the discussion is taken too far because whatever a venture is doing, as a final outcome humans will be affected.For the sake of discussion here, we'll stick with the traditional meaning and try to deduct whether there are learnings from Anna Hazare for a social entrepreneur?

Kisan Baburao Hazare, a social activist, became the face of the 'anti-corruption' movement which was started by him in 2011. Having been a venerated figure among social circles across India, popularly known as 'Anna', he has been able to create a stir of monumental proportions. There is no doubting the fact that this was possible for him because of the work he has been doing through the decades. Post his stint in the Military, Anna has been standing up and fighting for various causes since the 70s including issues ranging from education to the right for information to prohibition of alcohol. Following the Gandhian principles,a hunger strike is Anna's weapon of choice and he has used it repetitively to stand for a cause.

Now, Anna is not a social entrepreneur but there are multiple things he fights against that are similar to what a social entrepreneur fights against and that is where an entrepreneur can learn from him. The single minded sense of purpose is a massive quality that Anna possesses. Never budging, he has been fighting it out against all odds and persistence has paid off. The same is the case with an entrepreneur. There maybe someone who is trying to uplift the tribal people by giving them a chance to sell their skills or someone who is trying to change the state of healthcare in the country; the challenges will be multiple. With rampant bureaucracy and an ignorant populace to educate, the task can be an uphill climb. Persistence and the strong will to wither all storms is the first must-have for a social entrepreneur. And Anna has this by the buckets.

The other aspect is the ability to motivate people. This is an ability required across sectors but becomes especially important when you're standing against a wall. If you're a business, there are way to get past the problem but a social entrepreneur is very much on the road and needs the support of as many as possible. Changing lives requires other lives supporting you. And again Anna has been able to do this beyond imagination; managing to bring a nation together for a cause! Yes, there are fingers pointed at him as well, there is a huge section of the crowd who have ridiculed him but he has been able to keep the people with him motivated and has created a strong team around him.

On closer inspection, the line delineating Anna from being a social entrepreneur blurs a bit. Osama Manzar, the chairman of Manthan awards wrote in a column that for him Mahatma Gandhi is the biggest entrepreneur and the likes of Anna Hazare and Bunker Roy in more recent times. Definitely an interesting viewpoint, the very recent political inclinations from Team Anna have further raised doubts whether the actions are purely social. Be that as it may, Anna has multiple qualities for a social entrepreneur to imbibe. Definitely a role model for not just many social entrepreneurs but people across the cross-section, Anna strikes a special chord with social entrepreneurs and keeps them egging on for the cause they're working.

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