Prizewinners We Can Learn From

Practicing entrepreneurial leadership requires considering opportunities that aren’t just about revenue. In fact, we use the acronymn SEERS–Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibility, and Sustainabilty–to express spectrum of opportunities that entrepreneurial leaders often pursue simultaneously. 

Here are three new case studies from Fast Company that describe what such opportunities can look like in practice. Each is a winner of the eBay Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers Powering Economic Opportunity: Create A World That Works Competition, a contest asking entrants to offer up “the world’s most innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.”

The Financially Self-Sufficient School Model

This entry, submitted by Fundacion Paraguaya, is a new model of technical and vocational education which “transforms the sons and daughters of chronically poor farmers into financially successful ‘rural entrepreneurs’ and its scaling up in 50 countries and/or 50 schools by 2017.” The Financially Self-Sufficient School model, already in operation at a school in Paraguay, teaches traditional high school subjects and allows students to run small-scale, on-campus agricultural enterprises, such as rural hotels and organic gardens. These on-campus enterprises cover many of the costs of running the school, which already generates $300,000 a year from the program. Now the foundation wants to scale up worldwide.

Nonprofit Innovation through Pay-for-Performance Funding

Submitted by Twin Cities RISE!, this organization’s mission is to train unemployed and under-employed men from communities of color with skills that can then be marketed to employers–and can score the unemployed jobs that pay at least $20,000 each year. TCR has formed a partnership with the state of Minnesota where the state pays the organization $9,000 each time the program places a graduate into a $20,000-a-year job, and it pays another $9,000 if the employee stays in the job for a year. The reason: TCR has demonstrated that an employed graduate has $31,000 of Net Present Value to taxpayers.

Mobile Microfranchising in Indonesia

The Grameen Foundation’s project is to offer a mobile marketplace, job search services, financial services, health and agriculture information, and small business mentoring to Indonesia’s poorest residents. Here’s how it works: An aspiring entrepreneur buys a pre-packaged kit, which contains a mobile phone and a microfinance loan. The entrepreneur then sells airtime minutes to neighbors. The opportunity allows the entrepreneurs (usually women) to double their income and gain valuable business skills. Grameen hopes to expand its network of over 7,500 entrepreneurs to 60,000 in the next three years.

We believe that each of the three cases above offers a benchmark for budding entrepreneurial leaders.

What Zombies Tell Us About Entrepreneurial Leadership

Here’s a great interview with Max Brooks, author of a two bestsellers on zombies. Brooks’ books have captured the imagination of huge numbers of teenage boys (and those that sometimes think like them).

As researchers of entrepreneurial leadership, we’ve been noticing how Brooks is increasingly developing new lucrative business ventures (such as TV shows and live lecture progams). But a key point is that all this innovation is based on his peculiar area of expertise and passion. He creates value from what he knows and who he is. Below is an excerpt from the interview:

How did you come up with such a curious niche as zombie expert?

I didn’t really set out to come up with a niche. I just was a zombie fan and wanted to answer my own questions. I used to wonder how I would survive a zombie attack and went looking for a book on how to do it. Nobody had written it, so I thought I’d just write it for myself, and it sat on the shelf for years before it ever got published. That was Zombie Survival Guide. When it came time to write another book, I wasn’t done with zombies. Every zombie story up until that point was a micro-story about an individual or group of humans and their little war. But to me, that isn’t enough, because zombies are macro-horror. They’re big. They’re global. No one was answering my questions about what a global zombie pandemic would look like, so that’s when I wrote World War Z.

Did you ever expect a zombie career would blow up like this?

God, no! Zombie books were going to be my passion projects, but certainly not pay the bills. I thought I was going to have to get a real job on a sitcom or something, and have my zombie books to remind myself I was still a writer at heart. I never thought I could actually pay my bills and write what I wanted.

Developing Leaders Who Shape Social & Economic Opportunity [video]

Today’s vastly complex, globalized, and fast-evolving world requires a different kind of leadership. The New Entrepreneurial Leader is a game-changing book that details a new approach—entrepreneurial leadership—developed at Babson College, the No. 1 school for entrepreneurship in the world. It embraces three principles that add up to a fundamentally new world view of business and a new logic of decision making. Here, the authors discuss its importance in revitalizing business management education.