What is local social entrepreneurship the answer to, you ask? Potentially a wide variety of issues, but with respect to this article's title, it's the answer to this question I posed over two years ago: "Where does idealism fit into my busy life?"
Not long after that post, with my wife's permission I seriously considered transferring to the Mumbai, India office of my former employer, Medtronic. Four interviews in, it became clear to me that although I might have tremendously enjoyed the marketing manager job in India if I had no wife or children to look after, the fact remained that I did have a wife and one child (now two). And while I greatly respect individuals such as Paul Farmer, John Wood, Muhammad Yunus, and Paul Polak for the work they have done to help the world's poor, I frankly see myself spending far more time with my family than I believe they have afforded themselves. On to Plan B...
Plan B had become quite clear to me by the middle of 2011: I needed a new career path that could keep me engaged while keeping me married. Scandalized? Don't be. I want to remain engaged in my work by continually learning things that are interesting to me while feeling that my work is making a positive difference in peoples' lives. And I want to remain happily married by having more time with my family and not making my wife feel like a single parent due to my travel, which had averaged around 25% during my years in marketing for a global company.
The solution I came up with? Own a local business, providing a service that helps local people and allows me to see my family each night. "Sounds like a non-profit," my wife said. Perhaps, but the big difference is that I will be earning an income by providing a valued service to an underserved population rather than diverting a portion of donations to cover my salary. The industry I chose for my new local social entreprise is called "home care," in which my agency and similar agencies provide in-home companionship, homemaking, and personal care to the elderly, disabled, and people recovering from surgery -- even new mothers. It's a relatively new industry, and if it's not immediately clear to you why this service fills an unmet need, ask a half-dozen people and more than one of them is likely to tell you something along the lines of "I wish we had known about that service for my (grand)mother, who unfortunately died a few years ago. We tried to care for her as best as we could..."
I have adopted the following mission statement for my agency, which I am running as an independent owner and operator of Synergy HomeCare:
Our mission is to help people realize their unlimited potential. In pursuing our mission, we...
...desire to positively impact the lives of everyone with whom we come into contact
...demonstrate love, patience, and gratitude in all our interactions
...promote health, learning, and family in a thoughtful and respectful manner
...provide predictability for ourselves and others, including but not limited to finances, time, quality, etc.
My agency became licensed in the State of Colorado earlier this month, and I expect to serve my first clients in January 2012. I'm excited to be a social entrepreneur serving an underserved population in my own backyard. It's the best of both worlds, for now at least. I continue to donate funds to organizations that focus on the developing world, including Room to Read, One Acre Fund, and BYU Hawaii, while seeing my family each day.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!