So today I was talking to a colleague about VPF’s upcoming Launch Party (Feb. ’08). We were admitting to one another that it often takes at least two attempts to clearly articulate what VPF does. Two attempts being on the low end. And everybody knows that this doesn’t make the ideal elevator speech.

What is the connection between social entrepreneurism and philanthropy?

Social entrepreneurs (SE) – in short definition – are visionary individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. Ambitious and persistent, they tackle major social issues by changing systems, spreading solutions, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps to enact sustainable social change.

The genius of SE’s, as originally identified by Ashoka, is their identification of an existing “gap” in a given community and turning it into an opportunity to change the entire system. They don’t just plug the hole, they knock down the entire wall and rebuild it so no hole exists at all – plugged or otherwise.

But after taking a look around this growing sector, I also realized that SE’s of the non-profit variety often lack one or more of the following resources:

1) Money : start-up money, general operations money and, maybe most importantly, longer term money

2) Skills : administrative and operational, legal, financial, managerial, public relations, sales and marketing, human resources, and the list goes on…

3) Networks : cross industry, cross cultural, multi-geographical

Philanthropically, it serves a community well to offer their support to these unique individuals. One option is to give to a charity that plugs a hole into infinitum, the other is to provide philanthropic charity to a struggling SE and change the system altogether.