How I Became a Social Entrepreneur (and why you should too!)

There are a number of perks associated with a typical job in the corporate world. You might get to work in a swanky office in a city high rise, you might get to travel the country or even the globe to visit clients, and if you’re really lucky your paychecks might actually make a dent in that pile of student loan debt you picked up while you were living the good life on campus.

All great things, but let’s face the facts: just about every point on the long list of corporate perks is a self-serving one. Regardless of how your boss tries to spin your company’s role as one that enables the betterment of society or how many “Give Back to the X” days that you attend, the bottom line is you are a cog in a machine dedicated to making profits for shareholders. Now before you stop reading, don’t worry I’m not a socialist (though the whole Bernie Sanders thing has me pretty confused…is socialism still bad or what?), and I don’t believe that a life of pure self-sacrifice is the only decent one. There’s nothing wrong with being self-serving when the objective of your selfishness is to build a career that enables you to pay your debts, save money to support your current or future family, and assure you are not a burden on society. I am, however, saying that such a career, regardless of how much you enjoy your work, may neglect that part of you that truly wants to make a difference and improve the lives of those who are in dire need. Robert Kennedy said that “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Despite what many in our society now seem to think, angry posts on Facebook (while they may feel so good at the time) are not a contribution, but social entrepreneurship certainly is.

Social entrepreneurship offers two distinct opportunities that are likely lacking in your life as a corporate minion. First, it provides an opportunity for true altruism; you are helping those who are actually in need as opposed to adding another percentage point to an already healthy bottom line.

Secondly, it puts YOU in the driver seat. The layers of red tape that are routine in large, established, hierarchical companies are gone. Now it’s just you, a few other adventurous individuals, and an urgent problem that needs solving. You (and they) have the responsibility to independently make decisions that can tangibly improve lives. That alone can be a very intriguing and rewording proposition.

At this point you might be thinking, “I give back to society, just last month I spent a half day passing out water bottles at our company run to end homelessness!” A valiant cause to be sure, and I am not trying to diminish any contributions. Ask yourself though, how do you feel after a one-off volunteering session? Do you go home truly feeling as though your investment is making a change in your community, or are you just glad for any opportunity to do something besides staring into the depths of your laptop screen? The fundamental difference between volunteering and social entrepreneurship is your level of investment. Social entrepreneurs aren’t just showing up and supporting a cause for a day without being able to see the impact of your work or even knowing if there is one. We are planting altruistic seeds that we are actually there to nurture, grow, and see harvested by those who we’ve vowed to help. In my experience, this increased commitment pays substantial dividends both in the amount of impact you will be able to have and the satisfaction you will feel as a result.

So let me clarify, I am not trying to guilt trip you into quitting your six figure job as an investment banker and striking out to help form an organization that will leave you with at best a profit of zero. Social entrepreneurship, though I have been lucky enough to get some of my colleagues involved, is outside of my day job. For me it was a gradual process of involvement. I began as a volunteer with a local organization just starting to incorporate and get their feet under them, found the experience incredibly rewarding, and began to support them with some of my own skills from a financial and management perspective. From there I found a passion and as the organization grew my role grew as well. As with any young organization, new startups are in dire need of individuals with the business-related skills you use every day. So here’s what I am pushing you to do: go out and volunteer, but not with a one-off mindset. Go out and volunteer with an organization that has a goal you connect with and that you think could truly use your help. Find a way to apply your skills to a cause you believe in, and you just might find that before you know it you’ve joined me as a passionate social entrepreneur.

 

Michael Anderson

CFO of Knowledge of Careers

 

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Take Our Kids to Work Day

Taking up a timely topic, Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institute asks us to rethink the goals behind Take Your Kids to Work Day. What if it was renamed Take Our Kids to Work Day? On this day, professionals would take kids who are not regularly exposed to interesting and compelling careers into the office with them. Rather than focusing exclusively on our own children, Take Our Kids to Work Day would provide an opportunity to introduce kids to professions that would otherwise remain invisible to them, and therefore beyond their young ambitions. The author identifies socioeconomic immobility as the grievous problem - for the nation, for communities, for schools, and for our kids - that it is, and notes how we might take small steps towards bridging the divides that pervade our nation and undercut its fundamental promise to provide opportunity for all. We work every day to give our students the opportunities and skills they need to explore the new professions that will ignite their curiosity and passions, and are grateful that Mr. Reeves shares our enthusiasm for poking holes in the walls that separate society, keeping us from learning from one another. Link to article: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/theres-a-better-way-to-celebrate-take-your-kids-to-work-day-taking-someone-elses-kid-instead/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=51237898 --
We are very excited to introduce an ongoing series that will display the research of elite think tanks, social scientists, and journalists who are engaged in the same important work as KOC. We consider these researchers to be our partners. Their data gives us guidance, and our programs bring their data to life.
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Miami Senior High School Year 1 Updates - March 2017

The past few weeks have been filled with some great presentations for our first freshman class at Miami Senior High School. Our students have been learning about law, education, digitl marketing, and even geology. As the weeks pass new topics and ideas are being introduced, and our students are learning more about new professional possibilities.   Our students started off with a presentation by lawyer Marissa Leichter. With a focus on family law and child protection, she discussed the law’s involvement with the foster care system and nonprofit systems that provide child care. Marissa also detailed the complex juvenile detention system. For her activity, the students developed their own ideas for nonprofit companies and drafted a mission statement.   Digital marketer Bryan Lozano visited our class to speak on the value of online marketing and social media management. As the digital marketer for a large, south Florida law firm, Bryan manages the online presence of the firm and maintains a positive corporate image. Bryan described to our class the importance of establishing a difference between the online persona of a company or corporation and one of a person. As such, as part of his activity, each of our students started their own blog which they have been updating regularly.   A week later we were visited by Kyle Mullan, teacher and dean at Cushman High School. Kyle recounted his storied path to teaching and showed our class the many steps it takes to reach a professional goal. As a dean and teacher, Kyle crosses the line between educator and administrator, and helped explain to our class the multifaceted ways he must face an issue. Additionally, we were treated to a detailed description of Kyle’s many travels and volunteer work, which prompted a concluding informal discussion about world travel, geopolitics, and the need for selflessness. Lastly, geologist and professor Ta-Shana Taylor came to our class with a bucket of rocks! However we quickly learned that these were not just rocks, but also a mix of ancient fossils and minerals. Ta-Shana explained in-depth the inner workings of archaeology and the scientific fields, gradually revealing throughout the lecture signs and techniques to classify all of the samples she had brought with her. By telling us stories of her visits to the Museum of Natural History as a teenager, her dig sites in college, and her current work at UM, we seemed to learn more and more about classification and study as her timeline progressed. As we reached our current day in her story, we compared how we had sorted the samples to how the student did initially and saw firsthand how much we had learned in such a short period.
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Booker T. Washington Year 1 Updates - March 2017

As the school continues our freshman class at Booker T. Washington High School continues to have engaging presentations from a variety of professionals. Our last series of presentations have covered disciplines from all walks of life, professions, and academics, and have given our students an experienced outlook into the working world.   We started off the month with aesthetician Elizabeth Canler who spoke on her training and experiences in the beauty industry. Elizabeth drew from both scientific and aesthetic viewpoints in her presentation, speaking on the methodology behind products and techniques used in the modern beauty and cosmetological industries. Elizabeth brought in a number of ingredients used in facial masks which can be found at home and had the students design and create their own masks.   Dr. Angie Laird is a professor and neuroscientist from Florida International University who discussed with our students the benefits and uses of MRI technology in the medical field and how she uses it to study brain function. Dr. Laird focuses on the differences between active and inactive regions in the brain, and discussed with our class the differences between the two and how she differentiates between them based on MRI feedback. For an activity she had our students perform various critical thinking problems and exercises to stimulate brain activity and explained how she would measure which portions of the brain was being activated based on the type of question.   Entrepreneur Tony Thomas was next to speak with the class. He discussed the benefits of branding, personal marketing, and wealth management, both personal and professional. Mr. Thomas has a number of companies and holdings including athletic training and management, and discussed strategy behind balancing budgets and efforts between them, while maintaining separate and effective brands. As class drew to a close Tony had the students create personal fictional brands for causes or issues important to them.   To round out the month we had Dr. John Davies come speak with our class. An experienced leader in the south Florida academic field, he has been Head of School for the local Miami Country Day School for nearly 20 years. Documenting his path towards education and administration, Dr. Davies discussed how high school-level academia has evolved over past decades, how teaching styles can be altered to best suit different students, and the many opportunities and career paths involved in following an education in teaching.
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March 2017 Ambassador Updates

Over the past month our Ambassadors have had some of the most productive and educational weeks yet! Between large strides being made in their Community Impact Projects and developing their professional skills, they have been working tirelessly to improve themselves and the neighborhoods around them. Within the last month our Ambassadors presented their projects at our first annual Knowledge of Careers Pitch Presentation, where they were judged independently and the winner received seed funding for their project!   The Ambassador’s Community Impact Projects have been developing rapidly over the past few weeks. With each unique project taking realized form, our Ambassadors have been creating business models, competitor analyses, and financial projections, as well as ensuring their positive impact on the Overtown community and surrounding areas. Their work on their projects this semester culminated in our First Annual Knowledge of Careers Pitch Night, where the Ambassadors pitched their projects to an independent panel of judges: Melitsa Waage, Oro Padron, Hannah Anokye, Naureen Rizvi, and Sally Guzik. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to them for evaluating the programs and giving their feedback! At the end of the night our Ambassadors Donna and D'eria from their project Diamonds In The Rough edged out the other competitors; In Between, the program run by Kimneisha and Jonathan, and Beat The Odds, Chris and Marquise’s Community Impact Project.   Donna and D’eria won a well-deserved prize of an initial $250 funding towards their project, which will be implemented in May along with the other Ambassadors’ projects. The projects will be continued throughout the rest of the year, when they will undergo an unbiased, professional evaluation to see which projects have room for future growth and development. In the meantime the Ambassadors will continue the Knowledge of Careers curriculum into their Junior years, developing their programs further, and focusing on SAT and ACT preparation and internships.
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