Guest Articles

July 26

Roshan Paul

Fixing the Social Enterprise Skill Shortage: Why a ‘Fundamental Rethink’ is Needed

As intermediary organizations get started, they often focus on equipping the entrepreneurs they support with the networks, skills and resources crucial to their recent development stage. Once the intermediaries go beneath the surface of entrepreneurship, however, they realize that there is a bigger challenge than finding and supporting entrepreneurs (which is, to be fair, a big enough challenge of its own). And that is building the teams these entrepreneurs need to grow their organizations and thrive in the marketplace. At present, there are many more resources (fellowships, executive training, courses, incubators and accelerator programs) targeted at building the skills of entrepreneurs and launching their ventures than there are for building and growing their teams and talents.

Most entrepreneurs will passionately argue that the resources are more needed for their teams than for themselves. This means that there is a significant talent shortage at the second-line leadership and senior management levels in most social enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As for the corporate sector, a recent survey of 1,300 CEOs from 68 countries by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) concluded that “Skill shortages are once again keeping CEOs awake at night, and megatrends (urbanization, changing demographics, technology) are only going to make the problem worse. This is no time for tinkering at the edges of talent management … a fundamental rethink is needed.”

Of the CEOs the company surveyed, 63 percent believed that availability of skills was a serious concern to them. The topic is slowly starting to move to the forefront of the attention of intermediaries – earlier this year Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) and Argidius Foundation launched the Talent Challenge to address the talent issue for SMEs in emerging markets.

On the other side of the coin, people entering the workforce are no longer content just earning a good paycheck. More and more, they want to do work that matches their values, and they are willing to take a pay cut to do so. Their faith in big companies was shattered in the 2008 financial crisis, which removed one of the biggest attractions to working in large but soulless corporate firms – job stability and security.

Joining vocation with values

But it is not easy to find work that fits your values. You have to be very creative with how you find new opportunities, including volunteering and traveling if necessary. You can also build relevant skills and experience. It is crucial for individuals to develop their personal theory of change as a foundation for their social impact career. One way to think about this is through the Hedgehog Concept, which has been adapted to fit the social impact sector as follows:

Your purpose lies at the intersection of your answers to these four questions:

  1. What do I love to do?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What will the market pay me for?
  4. What does the world need from me?

Do you know what your intersection is? How will you define it?

This is especially important because intermediaries can play a critical role at this individual level as well. Regardless of whether you are considering changing your career or have been working in a social impact organization for many years, it is important to get your intention right. This is what moves you toward achieving your fullest potential and making the most impact. It is also crucial to reconnect to your purpose regularly and check if your current occupation is still aligned with your intersection. In other words, if you find your dreams have changed, your talent should be applied elsewhere.

Training for success

Another important thing to remember is that, like any other serious field, you need to train for success. We wouldn’t expect a doctor or lawyer or soldier to serve us without proper training, would we? Why do we think that those who seek to change the world can work without relevant training?

In response, at Amani Institute, we offer a 10-month certificate in social innovation management in Brazil and Kenya, in which our fellows gain relevant field experience and build cutting-edge professional skills that are in high demand by employers around the world. All courses are taught by senior leaders from the social and private sector, and these have ranged from Nobel Peace Prize winners to heads of foundations. The certificate program is further accredited through partnerships with Lynn University (where you can go on to earn a master’s degree in business administration by taking additional courses) and the United Nations-mandated University for Peace (with a diploma option).

The Amani Institute seeks to close the skills gap between what entrepreneurs and employers perceive, what universities teach and their graduates know and do. Intermediaries can play a big role in this when equipping social entrepreneurs with the right skills and supporting them in their team-building and talent-development efforts. More importantly and profoundly, though on an individual level, it is about helping anyone who seeks to build a career where they can both make a living and make a difference. This desire is not just limited to millennials but attracts people at every stage of the career life cycle, from mid-career burnouts to retirees contemplating their legacies.

Living your values and following your purpose are fundamental ingredients for a fulfilled career. These factors hold the potential to transform the global talent problem. We just need to support individuals to find their intersection and match their desire for making an impact with the soft and hard skills to do so.

Editor’s note: In the TEDx Talk below, the author, Roshan Paul, talks about a huge new wave of people seeking careers of impact and why the social enterprise sector is not ready to receive them.

Roshan Paul is CEO and co-founder of the Amani Institute, which develops talent to solve 21st century problems.




Social Enterprise
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