November 7, 2020

Lessons from my journey of serial social entrepreneurship

Chris Underhill traces a path from his troubled childhood to his prodigious career founding social enterprises that center the needs of people with disabilities and mental illness.

2 min read

I lay back in the ambulance early in the morning as it rushed through the dark streets of London. In those days there were no sirens but instead there was an electronic bell. Now I am 71, but then I was 12, hospitalised, to all intents and purposes, with an acute appendicitis. We arrived at the hospital and the surgeon swept up to me in emergency and very gently palpated my tummy. I was in immense pain, but it was not so site specific. I was admitted for observation but not to the theatre.

To this day I still have my appendix, so what had just happened? As I understand it now, I was suffering from psychosomatic pain. In lay terms I was suffering genuine pain derived from stress. I was having a child’s version of a nervous breakdown. I lay back and watched the ceiling pass over my head as I was wheeled to safety. I slept and slept and awoke to the quiet noise of a breathing pump gently working somewhere in the background.

This is an excerpt from the article Lessons from My Journey of Serial Social Entrepreneurship by Chris Underhill. 

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.