The world’s 30 leading social entrepreneurs: what can they tell us?

Posted on March 2, 2012


Bob Pattillio, Jane Chen, Sam Goldman, Ned Tozun, Jacqueline Novogratz, Martin Fisher, Nick Moon etc. What does these names tell you?

They are but a few names on a prestigious list published by Forbes Magazine as ‘the top 30 social entrepreneurs who are having the most impact in the world.’ The list was published in the December 19th 2011 issue of Forbes Magazine, where founder and CEO of Acumen Fund Jacqueline Novogratz was the magazine’s cover story under the title ‘innovation saves the world.´ Novogratz with her Acumen Fund could thus find herself announced as one out of 30 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, according to Forbes.

“For the first time in Forbes’ 94-year history, we’ve assembled the Impact 30: a list of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. We’re defining “social entrepreneur” as a person who uses business to solve social issues” the magazine states.

So what does this list tell us, besides that there are professional and talented people out there, who are willing to take great leaps of faith and risks in the pursuit of establishing businesses to solve social problems across the globe? Indeed, behind each name is an inspiring story of an individual who has worked hard and persistently to create a social enterprise, who has believed fearlessly in an idea to create social change, and who has never taken no for an answer, but worked ceaselessly turning the idea a reality; a reality that bred social impact. And most likely, once the idea was proven successful, there was even more work to do, because it can always be done better. This seems to be classical traits of successful social entrepreneurs.

Looking a bit closer at the list, something appears a little odd. Have you noticed?  One could get the impression that Forbes left out a significant word when labeling the list – the word being ‘American’. The list being called ‘Impact 30: a list of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs’ seems a little off, when all of the organizations all have headquarters in America or are American bred. Is it rather a list of ‘America’s leading social entrepreneurs with global outreach’? The Forbes list can also tell us that the average age of a ‘world leading social entrepreneur’ is about 42 years old and the male-female ratio is 73,5 % male vs. 26,5 % female.

What do you make of that?

It is always inspiring to see the entrepreneurial stories of social enterprises who have managed to create significant impact and that Forbes contributes a full issue of the magazine covering this is great. It is just a little puzzling how they came up with the list of these exact 30 people, naming them the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. What would be really interesting, would be to have these 30 people together around a kitchen table and hear what they in dialogue, would tell us. I bet it is interesting and insightful for others walking this path.