This will come as no surprise to many: I really like infrastructure. I get excited when I meet people who develop, connect, and improve the infrastructure that connects individuals, communities, and institutions working for lasting social change. Social infrapreneurship is a concept that I’m developing to further explore this group of people.
A few weeks ago, Victoria Vrana pointed me to this infrapreneurship challenge posted by Laurie Lane-Zucker on the Impact Entrepreneur LinkedIn discussion page. Laurie quoted Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine’s Impact Investing book, asking, “What can we do to cultivate the leadership required to build new SYSTEMS for impact investment to solve social and environmental problems at scale?”
I say we need to build a pipeline of infrapreneurial leaders who strive to solve social and environmental problems. We should define and solidify the infrapreneurship concept, identify and recognize social infrapreneurs, and then build opportunities for their growth and development.
It doesn’t take much time exploring the social entrepreneurship and impact investing field to realize that there’s a lot of emphasis on the leaders who create and finance new ventures. Fantastic organizations like Echoing Green and The Skoll Foundation identify, recognize, support, and fund social entrepreneurs. This process brings tremendous prestige to the field and encourages emerging leaders to aspire to become social entrepreneurs.
To cultivate people who will build new systems for social change – what I call social infrapreneurs – we need to identify, recognize, and fund leaders who embody the preneurial spirit with an eye for developing, connecting, and improving social change infrastructure.
The first step is solidifying the concept. Yes, infrapreneur sounds silly and it adds another word to the already-overrun social change jargon. However, I think there’s value in creating an identity to which emerging leaders can aspire, and in having a term to describe the work that so many have done their entire lives.
People respond to goals and incentives. If attaining infrapreneurial status excites someone, they will strive towards it. We should create awards and opportunities to recognize infrapreneurs and encourage people to showcase their work. With this work on display, hopefully others will be inspired to do the same. And perhaps most importantly, communities of infrapreneurs will form to support one another’s growth and development, much the way we’ve seen happen among social entrepreneurs.
In two UnSectored posts here and here I’ve started to work through the concept. It’s really new and needs a lot of work and push back. Through posts, comments, and in person and virtual conversations, I hope you’ll join me in defining and solidifying this concept so we can help recognize and support those who will build and improve the systems and infrastructure to solve social and environmental problems at scale.
Photo credit: Neighborhood Centers