Are the only innovations in social entrepreneurship Anglo-Saxon?

Are the only innovations in social entrepreneurship Anglo-Saxon?  Well, you might think so.

At the annual Skoll World Forum, (the “Davos of social entrepreneurship”) the overwhelming majority of speakers, experts and practitioners came from Anglo-Saxon countries, particularly the US and UK.  I recently attended a lecture by a well-regarded professor on social enterprise and finance.  He stated that “without a doubt the UK and the US lead the world in terms of thinking in this area”.

I found myself wondering, “Is this really true?”  Is this, perhaps, just an example of Anglo-Saxon “imperialism”, which ought to be contrary to the spirit of the world of social enterprise and finance?  Or do many of us think it is true because so much of the literature is written in English –the current “lingua franca” of the social enterprise world and the only language many of my colleagues and I can understand!  Perhaps there is indeed a large Anglo-Saxon contingent to the global “voice” on this subject, but have we got the proportions right at our global gatherings?

This is important to me because I am passionately interested in progress in the sector and believe that its pace is quickened when inputs are diverse.  If, by contrast, so many voices are Anglo-Saxon (like mine, I should confess), does this not hamper growth?  Are we not limiting our access to innovative ideas to only those which might spring forth from an “Anglo-Saxon” mindset?  Also, are there not ways to deploy social networking technologies to harness a broader range of views?   Even if we persist in writing in English can we not at least tap into a broader range of voices by nationality?

There is openness to models from the developing world.  But in many cases these models are deployed by Anglo-Saxons who move to these poorer countries.  Does this represent then a diversity of thinking or not?

Continental Europe and Japan represent an enormous proportion of global economic activity—yet their voice regarding social entrepreneurship is far more limited.  Is this because there is not much going on or because we just do not know where to look, or have limited access because of linguistic barriers?

First published in The Social Edge in May 2009.

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