Thanks for Ashoka's Social Entrepreneurs

America's young people can be forgiven if they become cynical about the excesses of capitalism. A teenager today will have lived through the dot-com era, Enron, Worldcom, the housing bubble and now the subprime meltdown and a likely recession. Washington has been so afraid of cramping the style of financial entrepreneurs that they have run amok.

The Ashoka Foundation is trying to encourage people to use their entrepreneurial spirit in the service of social goals. To inspire young people, it has prepared a series of DVDs on leading global social entrepreneurs. I have watched the one on Muhammad Yunus twice. He is founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and in the video describes in a witty way how he went from bank to bank trying to get loans for building small enterprises. Time and again he was told that banks can't make money that way. He proved they were wrong and still they wouldn't listen. So eventually he gave up and created his own very successful "microcredit" bank, the great Grameen Bank, which has now nearly $1 billion in assets. Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and was named by Business Week as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time.

Another video shows the history of the beginnings of the Corporate Social Responsibility movement in the late 1960s. It is called "Architect of Corporate Responsibility" and segments now appear on YouTube and AOL Video. It covers the life of social entrepreneur Alice Tepper Marlin as a Wellesley student, Wall Street analyst and President of the Council on Economic Priorities, which she founded to collect data on the social responsibility of corporations. The video covers her private life as (my) wife and mother, her activities at CEP and finally her current role as President of Social Accountability International, which developed the SA8000 standard for workplace equity.

Ashoka and its founder Bill Drayton have been the main instigators of the wave of interest in social entrepreneurship. They prepared the videos. Say I am biased, but the videos are great stories from beginning to end and Ashoka did a magnificent job putting them together.