Social Entrepreneurship: Changing Mindsets

“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more”
– Robert M. Hensel

Having always struggled with concentration and keeping my mind on the task at hand, I have worked hard to implement methodologies into my daily life to maintain my attentiveness. Despite my efforts, I find myself getting up from chair every five minutes whilst writing this blog. Without even realising I have moved from my desk and entered the kitchen to start cooking dinner, followed by me leaving the vegetables half prepared as I remembered I was supposed to call my mum two days ago.

My Masters is a small class of 11 students, and over the past 7 months we have gotten to know each other well. Even so, it took me by surprise when a class mate was able to observe my behaviour and question if I have an attention deficit disorder.  Prior to my masters course I would have taken this as a negative comment, but was relieved by their assurance that regardless of having these characteristics they are not a hindrance to success.

The Social Entrepreneurship lectures of my course have delved into the world of the Ashoka organisation, providing a breath of fresh air. The foundation is focused on supporting change makers across a range of projects, all striving to tackle and overcome social, environmental or cultural issues using innovative and original methodologies. Ashoka offers a small financial injection but mostly provides benefit through the use of their platform which encourages details of the projects to spread and grow.

They back a range of carefully selected “fellows” who must adhere to a list of five key characteristics:

  1. New and innovative idea to a social problem
  2. Creativity in the solutions
  3. Positive Social Impact of the idea
  4. Entrepreneurial Quality
  5. Ethical Fibre of the Entrepreneur

One story which particularly resonated with me was the project of Danish innovator Thorkil Sonne who founded the Specialist People Foundation. This foundation has created pathways to meaningful employment for over 1 million people worldwide. Sonne was able to take the characteristics associated with Autism which are usually seen as a disability, and therefore disadvantageous, but pivot by identifying major strengths and potential competitive advantages for businesses. Intertwined with the daily challenges faced by autistic people there is an attention to detail, precision and absolute focus that complements working in high-skilled analytical jobs. He was therefore able to flip societies thinking about disabilities and employability.

By providing suitable working environments and a space to develop and capitalise upon their skill sets, each person finding work through this foundation is empowered to focus on their diverse and vast set of capabilities and escape the label of having a “disability”.


Following on with the theme of flipping the way we think, the work of Narayana Peesapaty creating edible cutlery was a complete revelation for me. On a myriad of occasions; especially since moving to Madrid which is a city prone to good weather, I have attended picnics or BBQs supplied with one-time use plastic cutlery, which simply gets thrown to the rubbish. This is totally unsustainable process but through the introduction of this alternative option, which reverses our way of thinking, both people and the environment can be benefited. Eat with it and then eat it.



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