Want Social Change? Make Politics Part of the Equation

Living in the guilt-free, exciting world of social entrepreneurship, I hear more and more a sobering call to a different type of action: Politics is where you will make lasting change.

Social entrepreneurs of all stripes, nationalities and approaches gathered in Costa Rica this September for SHAPE 2013 -- an event organized by the San Jose Hub of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum.

From its very first session, the event marked a different north for me. Lourdes Casanova, Senior Lecturer of Management at Cornell University, spoke to the crowd about the role of Multinational Corporations in poverty reduction.

When the inevitable question about changing incentives came, Lourdes was straightforward: Get into politics -- we need people like you. Those words marked the tone for the entire weekend, on panels and over drinks. Are we really being asked to take on the system?

Social entrepreneurship feels like our generational call to action. It reads: Quit your hedge fund/consulting job and seek a way to make an impact in the world.

The Harvard Business Review has documented the steady rise since 1995 of social entrepreneurship in terms of MBA student interest, translating in course demand and career choice.

This is a welcome trend -- we are moving towards societies where the smartest, most ambitious individuals are no longer motivated solely by personal gain.

However, in a world where social entrepreneurship is lauded as the key to solving the world's problems, we must see beyond impact metrics and solving inefficiencies.

When planning our work, political context is often relegated to the column of uncontrollable variables. Why have the world's boldest dreamers limited their ambitions to exclude politics?

Our communities need smart, honest and principled politicians, but are millennials up for the challenge?

Politics remains in the no-go zone of our collective imagination -- a space of manipulation, back room deals and smoke screens.

Yet, this is the first generation to have at its disposal internet-based tools to engage in daily political acts: from sharing a link to a banned text to coordinating a Hangout with activists halfway across the world, we are constantly taking a political stance online.

Our challenge is finding pragmatic ways of bringing politics offline and into the core of our work.

Real social change needs us to consider difficult tradeoffs, make pragmatic choices some times, act upon conviction other times. Disrupting systems is messy, testing and consuming.

For social enterprises to be sustainable, an equally well-articulated movement of neo-politicians needs to tackle the systems underlying injustice, corruption, inequality and greed. This new generation of future politicians can be enablers of innovations for social good -- the holders of the key to big data, civil society regulation, new levels of transparency, to name a few.

Sustaining a successful social enterprise is hard work. It takes audacity and true belief in a cause. Young entrepreneurs are optimistic and unafraid, eager to innovate and results-focused. In this sense, a generation of social leaders has what it takes to be the politicians we need. The world is has an abundance of leaders of tomorrow. What we need more than ever are leaders of today.