Hawken and Bornstein

I think we need to do a better job in drawing out the themes and implications of Hawken’s provocative Blessed Unrest.  Here’s what I propose: as we read and discuss the material in Bornstein’s How to Change the World, let’s make a deliberate effort to connect the material there with material in Hawken’s book.  Please use this space to share your ideas on this, prior to Tuesday’s class.  And be specific as you analyze and critique the themes that the books have in common.

9 Responses to “Hawken and Bornstein”

  1. I liked Bornstein’s idea of an ‘obsessive individual’ in chapter one because it took me back to Mortenson and his fixation with making a change. The ‘obsessive individual’ had a similar theme with “Blessed Unrest” in the idea of starting a movement – either environmental activism, social justice initiatives or indigenous cultures rights- and how a single person can use this agency to get more results.

    Also the last part of the same chapter in “How to Change the world” when Borstein states the ‘fairly simple’ point of building a “framework of social and economic supports to multiply the number of effectiveness of the world’s social entrepreneurs” (p.3). His idea was reminiscent of the “Immune system” in “Blessed Unrest” and how the whole body works together to expel the bad and to become stronger. The idea of both starting with an individual and then linking with other social entrepreneurs to become more effective and using each other as a resource to have a bigger impact on the world – using each others capitals (esp. human and social capital) to link people together (example of Hawken having all the business cards collected over time – and the question of whether people realize the magnitude and importance of the movement towards general good).

  2. I like Isabel’s points about the multiplying effect of the world’s social entrepreneurs. As she points out, this is clearly a common theme between Hawken and Bornstein, but also a central theme of many of our readings and discussions.

    This connection is something that I have been thinking about between several parts of the material in class. Specifically, I am impressed with the idea that the increased connectivity, interaction and density of partnerships between social entrepreneurs, NGOs and individuals has the potential to give rise to a dynamic and newly powerful, not to mention newly effective movement. Although this common theme certainly makes sense to me, and I hope it is the case, to play devil’s advocate I suppose I would wonder if it is not more of a hope than an analytical prediction. This question has arisen in response to the generality of the statements found in both Hawken and Bornstein concerning this multiplier effect, and while I agree that such an effect certainly seems like it would happen, I think it is valuable to try to press these authors on the point, and ask if there isn’t a certain upward limitation to the amount of effectiveness/impact connectivity alone can add.

    Simply stated, and again to play devil’s advocate, how far can connectivity and communication take us?

  3. Drayton’s ‘bubble’ concept and that of a “spaceship earth” in Hawken’s create a parellel image that has been a motivation for the movement. In theory, the bubble works as a framework for emissions trading, but the internal mutual offsetting efforts imply a shared responsibility to maintain an equilibrium within the closed system– just as earth as a limited system has to be self-sustaining and has no outlet for any harmful output. The limits of the tiny sphere as well as a common goal as citizens on this spaceship have been forces that drive the movement which is taking place within this system.

    The social entrepreneurs described by Bornstein seem to take on one or more of these roles: goer, sender, mobilizer. Drayton would be all of these. Similarly, the movement involves this dynamism of different categories of organizations (Watch, Friends…), each with their own purpose but all contributing to the same end. Strengths in different areas, along with the diversification of causes (Bornstein, 67) creates a resilience to any attempt to weaken the movement. If the goer failed, there would be others mobilized and sent out.

  4. Both Hawken and Bornstein see the pain in the shadows of the world, but aim to shine light on the innovative thinkers who are working to make the world a better place. Hawken emphasizes the resilency of the human network to find solutions, and Bornstein provides more detail on some specific examples of incredible individuals who rally others behind their cause, such as Drayton or Rosa.

    John Elder gave a talk yesterday about the new environmentalism, which involves the celebration of the things that are good, rather than the constant negativity surrounding the things that are going wrong. It is people like Drayton, who celebrate the passion of people with creative solutions to difficult problems, that form some of the important hubs of activity on Hawken’s human network and who will be shifting this network in forward-thinking directions. It is their bordering-on-obsessive ability to carefully listen, think, redesign, and execute community projects that inspires legions of people to follow them into some form of world service; for example, Florence Nightingale, described in Bornstein’s book, and Paul Farmer, described in Hawken’s, have inspired hundreds of people to enter the field of medicine, both at home and abroad. These books are about finding inspiration in a world that sometimes seems very dark.

  5. I find myself inherently drawn to Borstein’s idea of social entrepreneurs much more than I am to Hawken’s aggregation of organizations worldwide to form a movement. Certainly, one idea does not exclude the other. In fact, one would hope social entrepreneurs like Rosa or de Souza would be an increasingly greater part of the larger movement Hawken presents. The most effective parts of Hawken’s movement are the social entrepreneurs that Borstein introduces.

    But from my experience in working with non profit organizations of all kinds from youth literacy to arts education, I find that there are more “standard” non-profits than there are “social entrepreneurial” non-profits, NGOs, etc.

    The question for me is how do you foster more social entrepreneurs so that Hawken’s movement can really blossom. Without Borstein’s social entrepreneurs, I don’t see Hawken’s movement going anywhere.

  6. I like Emily’s description of Bornstein’s case studies as hubs of Hawken’s network. Bornstein, through his analysis of Ashoka’s methodology of selecting fellows, argues that a social entrepreneur is the key to a successful NGO: “you couldn’t design one and just go out and hire somebody to run it” (157). Although Hawken doesn’t emphasize the people who found each of these intertwingled groups, in the end, he does come back to the individual. He says that the movement tackles problems directly, so “the way to change the world is to change one’s own practices” (174).

    This idea of “changing one’s own practices” relates back to Drayton’s preference of people who give practical answers and not spout theory during the screening process. The people of both books are grounded in doing, not thinking about doing. Along those lines, another common theme between the two books is lack of ideology. This is one of most unique characteristics of Hawken’s movement, something that sets it apart from all others. Also, the successful social entrepreneurs are not ideologues; they are free from any such framework and therefore more effective in rapidly creating realistic solutions.

  7. Bornstein’s chapter about Fabio Rosa brings up a time when he was out of work, unable to define himself on a resume or pin down one dominant strength, focus or mastery of a subject. He had worked in many different fields and picked up a bit from all of them. This is precisely what allowed him to find solutions that on the surface seemed completely unrelated to the problem, connecting the lack of electricity to overgrazing to find a common solution: fencing with solar panels.

    Just as Bornstein describes Rosa traversing subjects, Hawkins brings up “connectedness” and linking people. “One million escorts are here to transform the nightmares of empire and the disgrace of war on people and place. We are the transgressors and we are the forgivers. ‘We’ means all of us, everyone.” He notes that the movement not to be named has no one leader, just as Rosa’s approach to electricity had no one direction. There was the need to, “enlarge the framework” as Hawkins puts it.

    Our first day of our class, we recognized this “connectedness.” We all have different interests, backgrounds, and stories but we are part of a world with the same problems. This allows us to “enlarge our framework,” and our differences allow each of us to bring something fresh and new to the table. Really all of our conversations, readings, and examples of social entrepreneurships return to this point, this need for “connectedness” in one form or another.

  8. To go off of Kate’s point about “connectedness,” it seems to me after reading Hawken’s and Bornstein’s books that what they see happening is a redefinition of this connectedness. In class on Tuesday we talked about wiping out what was there before and building anew. Bornstein brings out especially well the idea that this connectedness stems from productive cooperation. The Polish program Sharing the Things We Have not from mere generosity but from a need; the entrepreneur in this example recognized what farmers and their families needed, and made an unlikely pairing with a group of people from the city, based on what they needed. Like any movement, this is one based on incentives as well as creativity.
    I don’t mean to sound cynical; this new movement as Hawken describes it is certainly based on compassion and is more than just a system of supply and demand. But reading through Bornstein’s book I definitely got the impression that this movement is its own kind of market. The College Summit project worked as a middleman between low-income youths who were unimpressive on paper, and colleges that wanted these students but had no other means of judging them besides grades and test scores. In South Africa the home-care movement used caretakers who would otherwise, for lack of a job, become these same ill people themselves. Something that both Hawken and Bornstein bring up is the idea of scale. Bornstein especially emphasizes Drayton’s demand that all of the Ashoka fellows have proposals for expanding their projects. Ryan’s point about “standard” non-profits got me thinking about how far this movement can expand while still being effective. I guess that goes back to Pier’s devil’s advocate point as well. One example of this was the need for the College Summit initiative to pull out of certain cities, or the stagnation of Ashoka in much of Africa. On the other hand, the nature of this movement as defined by Hawken is that of many small groups and entrepreneurs forming networks, and I suppose that where Ashoka feels its limitations another small movement will overlap and fill in the gaps.

  9. I really like Emily’s opening line: “Both Hawken and Bornstein see the pain in the shadows of the world, but aim to shine light on the innovative thinkers who are working to make the world a better place.”

    I think that the case studies that Bornstein lays out there really prove this point. He makes a great point when he talks about how when crafting a solution, we should not ignore the exceptional; in the social sciences these are precisely what you ignore, or throw out and move on from. Because they don’t tell you what works for the status quo, but when trying to be creative and use resources more effectively, that is exactly what the social entreprenuer should be doing. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, and I think its an enlightening method.

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