July 11, 2020

It’s time for a new myth of the social entrepreneur

Gary Cohen, founder of Healthcare Without Harm, talks about how the expectations on social entrepreneurs take a toll on their health, why large-scale change requires inner work, and more.

2 min read

The organisations in the Skoll Foundation portfolio are a leading corps of global change makers. We receive awards, funding, and celebratory fanfare at the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. With this mantle comes much expectation.

On a stage in 2006, Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley gave me my Skoll Award. On my one side was the Sundance Kid; on the other side was Gandhi. Talk about pressure! Some say the social entrepreneur is supposed to ride into town on a white horse and save the world. But I don’t know how to ride a horse.

Then there’s the expectation to scale up. If you’ve educated two million girls in India, scale that to 10 million girls. If you’ve saved a third of the Amazon rainforest, scale that to the entire Amazon. If you’ve eliminated mercury thermometers from around the world—as my organization had done—then take that victory and transform the supply chain of the entire global health care sector.

This is an excerpt from the article It’s Time for a New Myth of the Social Entrepreneur by Gary Cohen. 

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This article is a part of a special series on the connection between inner well-being and social change, in partnership with The Wellbeing ProjectStanford Social Innovation ReviewSchwab Foundation at the World Economic Forum, and Skoll Foundation.

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Skoll Foundation

The Skoll Foundation is dedicated to expanding the impact of successful social innovations by empowering the social entrepreneurs behind them. The Foundation works across six issue areas: economic opportunity, education, environmental sustainability, health, peace and human rights, and sustainable markets. Each year, they present select social entrepreneurs with the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship—a USD 1.25 million three-year investment in their organisations, to help them scale and deepen their impact.