It seems I am becoming a Social Entrepreneur. As the journey is becoming somewhat fascinating as it unfolds, I have decided to blog it so as to keep a record. Gentle Readers, you know me, I regularly make such pronouncements without much follow through. However, let’s see what develops. Travel with me, if you will?
This story goes way back to Friday 30th November 2009, the night I had dinner with President Bill Clinton. There were just 900 of us in the room at the Hilton on Park Lane, but it felt glamorous and we were very close to him; he walked within just a few paces of me. The two people standing between me and Bill were my mortgage broker, Paula, and her husband, Kevin. Paula pressed the Presidential flesh, that’s how close I was! As I am sure you are aware, the man has charisma in bucketloads and to be this near feels like being touched by someone with very special qualities indeed.
I learned millions of things that night. I’ve told this story before but its worth re-capping since perhaps my journey to Social Entrepreneurship began under Bill’s influence. William J. Clinton spoke eloquently and without notes for the best part of 90 minutes. He taught me lots of things I didn’t know, especially about the UK, which made me feel better about myself as a citizen. He told me stories of Rwanda and South Africa, particularly stories of how his charitable foundation works with communities in ways which are affordable, sustainable and make a real difference to peoples’ lives.
He told of the people he had met doing good works in those communities, people who had lost their families and were “lucky” to be alive. So much was done with so little with just a sprinkle enlightened thinking and seed capital that I was inspired and moved to tears, more than once, especially when it came to the stories of love and forgiveness.
One such story involved the issue of a battery-operated torch to 5,000 homes. Each torch cost pennies, but the light it provided meant that schoolchildren could see to do their homework and parents could see to do paid work in the evenings, both for the first time. You can see immediately the educational and economic impact of a torch. The torch was manufactured by one local business and maintained by another, the batteries by a third. That’s three more groups able to enjoy lasting improvement to their lives and finances by the same torch. Delicious joined-up thinking and financial prudence within the same project, making the “charitable” dosh go much, much further.
After Bill had left us, Rory Bremner said “he makes you want to be a better man”. The fact that I can still remember that evening in such detail, especially the feelings it provoked in me, and attribute what follows to it in part, speaks for itself and Rory was right. I don’t know how deeply that penetrated my subconscious but I believe I was profoundly changed. Forever.
What happened next?
You can see that I feel I am being guided on this journey; things appear to be happening to me, rather than me driving which is my wont, my preferred historically if truth be told. I read, only this morning, in a fabulous piece by Srikumar Rao:
“Another condition for change and transformation is learning how to let go. You must relinquish the ego-driven need to be in control, the feeling that you are the orchestrator of events. When you have the right mixture of passion for what you want to accomplish, detachment, and acceptance of whatever actually happens, you will be amazed by how locked doors mysteriously swing open. You will find a rescuing army showing up every time you are beleaguered.”
As I hope I shall go on to demonstrate in this and subsequent posts, that rescuing army is showing up every day it seems to me right now and I am truly grateful. Slowly, I am learning to let go of my ego-driven need to control and it seems my new project is all the better for it.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The Clinton dinner marked the sudden and disappointing end to a project to which I had dedicated most of my 2009. The project went phut owing me more £70,000. That money which I never saw (and the rest of it which I had earned and which would keep me and my clients for the rest of our days) would have paid for my new garden office, my month of December off in the Caribbean and my tax bill due 1st June 2010 of £21,000.
The new garden office was built, the Caribbean holiday booked and I had no way of paying for them and little taste for enjoying either.
As the money and the business opportunity disappeared, so did all my future plans and – much against my will – I entered The Void.