Hopping off the social entrepeneurship bandwagon

By Iván Diego

“My daughter was abducted by one of these beige lunatics”

Mr. Bishop in “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson)

Your concerns are unfounded, Mr. Bishop, your daughter’s abduction is a blessing in disguise according to DEMOS report “Scouting for Skills” (Birdwell & Wybron, 2014).  Not surprisingly, this piece of research undertaken with the generous support of The Scout Association is a paean to the Scouts Movement and its indisputable role in forging the character of anyone willing to earn a secure a place in the Valhalla of the employable.

With youth unemployment and social inequality reaching historical highs we are pushed to think character is all we need to see the attainment gap closing. So, do you want to be remembered as a changemaker or as a changegiver? Build your character and stop moaning. Reinforce your emotional resilience, responsibility and self-control.  Stand up (not for your right to party) and surf this epochal wave of half-baked zombie truths.  For those of us clueless on how to prove our worth, let’s sign up for the Scouts.  

Seemingly, the Scout Movement delivers a transformative experience for its members (and some trendy badges too). Rank and file become extraordinary teamworkers, sensible leaders, gritty problem solvers… the ultimate dream of employers. In spite of the fact that the employability race increasingly resembles a never-ending search for an elusive goal, the report establishes a causal relationship between character and employability and extolls the virtues of the Scouts movement as some sort of fast-track lane at a time when the “ability of schools to instill “character” is constrained” according to the authors.  

To be fair, Scouting  is just part of an ever expanding hodge-podge of employability enhancers under the banner of the Social. Volunteer work, Service Learning, Social Innovation and our much beloved Social Entrepreneurship represent the bandwagons of what starts looking like a sadistic train of thought on a mission:  to recast youth unemployment in terms of individual psychological deficits obscuring the fact that we will never be employable enough (Cremin, 2009).  Plans for required community service for all high school students in the States or the Step Up To Serve campaign launched in November 2013 in the UK represent two behavioral and overtly ambitious attempts to “ nudge” (Thaler & Sunnstein, 2008)  young people into “social action”.  Step Up to Serve proponents aim at an impressive 50% of young people involved in “practical action in the service of others” by 2020.   Add to this Gergen, Rego and Wright plans for our education systems:  Nothing more and nothing less than developing a billion leaders!!  (Gergen et al., 2014) and that shall give you a flavor of the snowballing effect of this whole endeavor.  

Reinvention of the social as a form of the economic (Gordon, 91) and the individualization of the structural and social problems of yore characterize this whitewashing strategy of the entrepreneurial construct.  Corporate social responsibility , volunteering, shiny-happy-sharing-caring “makers” of a better world expand the boundaries of the entrepreneurial-minded society.  In this sugary yet decaffeinated and fat free vision of entrepreneurship infatuated with the “hypersocial” and  “crowded”  discourse (social entrepreneurship, social networks, crowdfunding, co-production) I’m starting to miss some more of the good old, honestly ruthless, amoral, individual and greedy forms of entrepreneurship in order to regain the balance that’s been lost.  To sum things up  I shall follow a friend's piece of advice: “I’m hoping off the social entrepreneurship bandwagon, unless it is heading to a jamboree of true social entrepreneurs, dying to make entrepreneurship a true and ruthless endeavour to defeat amorality”.  As a final remark, back to the Scout thing and to end in a high note I would like to draw your attention to the fact that scout uniforms are devoid of glamour.  Our youngsters deserve better than that.

 

Additional Reading

Berglund, K. (2013) Fighting against all odds: Entrepreneurship education as employability training. Ephemera Journal. Vol 13(4): 717-735.
Retrieved 03/09/2014 from http://www.ephemerajournal.org/contribution/fighting-against-all-odds-entrepreneurship-education-employability-training

Birdwell, J. & Wybron, I. (2014) Scouting for Skills. Demos.
Retrieved 30/07/2014 from http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/scoutingforskills

Cremin, C. (2009). Never employable enough: The (im) possibility of satisfying the boss’s desire. Organization.

Gergen, C, Rego, L & Wright, J. (2014) Developing a billion leaders. Phi Delta Kappan, September 2014; vol. 96: pp. 53-58

Kohn, A. (2014) The Downside of “Grit”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 03/09/2014 from http://www.alfiekohn.org/miscellaneous/grit.htm

Kohn, A. (2012) The Risks and Potential of Required Community Service http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/the-risks-potential-of-re_b_1192676.html

Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. Yale University Press.