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NOW on the News with Maria Hinojosa

Transcript: Bill Drayton on Social Entrepreneurs

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HINOJOSA: Hi, everyone. This week we're talking to Bill Drayton. He's the founder of Ashoka, an organization that finds and fosters social entrepreneurs around the world. Drayton is the man who popularized the term "social entrepreneur." He's also the man Bill Clinton recently said should win the Nobel Prize for his work. We're talking to Bill Drayton on the same day that at Now on PBS are launching Enterprising Ideas. It's a series of programs that will focus on social entrepreneurs both here in the United States, and around the world. Welcome to Now in the News, Bill.

DRAYTON: Thank you. I bet you everyone who's with us can identify at least one problem the world faces. Then you ask, "What's the most powerful force you can bring to bear?" It's the combination of a big idea with a good entrepreneur. There's nothing more powerful.

And that's just as true for education, human rights, as it is for hotel, or steels, in fact, as we are so far behind in the social arena. Business took off and became entrepreneurial and competitive long before we did. That right now the social entrepreneurs are where the action is.

HINOJOSA: So, give us an example of someone who you think, you know, embodies this person of being a social entrepreneur.

DRAYTON: Jill Villa the West Coast. She is reintroducing recess into schools. Schools have increasingly become fearful of recess as a source of disorder. So, they've been canceling recess, which, of course, drives some students crazy. What Jill does is she comes in and reconstitutes recess as a place where children learn how to play together.

When you look down from a third or fourth floor window when she begins, you don't see any patterns. After a short period, you see a group of kids playing this game together. And that keeps going, and there are more and more groups.

And so after about six months, she's taken chaos and turned it into a very constructive part of children learning how to play with one another. Juan in rural Brazil. The richest small state, Rio Grande de Sol. Half the population, no electricity. This is a Brazilian club for people getting solar when they're not anywhere near the electrical grid, which is a huge opportunity all across the world. And what he's done is essentially a change in the financing system.

Instead of asking poor people to pay up front, he says, "All right. You're paying so much for kerosene now. You just keep paying that, and that's a down payment a lease purchase of the solar equipment." So that opens up the whole market. I think his work is gonna lead very quickly to a spread of home solar, and small rural business solar also, that is essentially a--a business insight about the financing systems.

HINOJOSA: If I see a problem, but I'm not a manager. It's not a business person. Then--you know, I might feel like, well, I don't really have the chops to figure out the answer to the problem, but I see the problem. So, what is it exactly that you see social entrepreneurs? Is it about creating a business that solves a problem?

DRAYTON: So, what does an entrepreneur do? The first thing is they have given themselves permission to see a problem. Most people don't want to see problems, because they don't know what to do with them. They're just gonna feel badly. Once you see a problem, and then keep looking at it, you'll find the answer.

It doesn't matter whether it's business or social. That's the basic process of the entrepreneur. Because business took off and got so far ahead, we had a division. And it just became intolerable around 1980, because we weren't solving our social problems. The--the imbalance was getting greater and greater. They're both entrepreneurial and competitive. Twenty-five years ago one was entrepreneurial and competitive. One was paid for by tax money basically.

HINOJOSA: So, when your critics say, "We live in a society where we have decided on a form of social relations that include the presence of government. And it's the role of the government, not private citizens to care for the country's social problems." So, you know, in a sense do social entrepreneurs absolve governments of their responsibilities?

DRAYTON: The social entrepreneurs are government's best friends. If you are a government Minister, or senior civil servant, where would you look now for the best new ideas, people who already know the issues and understand how society really works? So, yes, the social entrepreneurs are challenging the government.

But that's very healthy. I think we're gonna see with the emergence of an entrepreneurial competitive citizen sector, we'll see governments shaping up a lot faster than otherwise would be possible.

HINOJOSA: Do you see the work that you're doing in raising this issue as essentially really being the center--or--or the manifestation of a paradigm shift in terms of how we see the world around us?

DRAYTON: I think we're in the middle of the biggest structural change in society since the agricultural revolution, and the social entrepreneurs, and the business entrepreneurs are right at the heart of it. We now live in a world where there are an almost infinite number of moving pieces. And the faster things change, the more the pieces have to change.

And each piece, a school, a business, a--a dental office, whatever, has to keep changing. They--they need change making ability. We have not increased the proportion of the population who are change makers. This doesn't work. A tiny elite simply cannot be everywhere. The social entrepreneurs are the role models. And to succeed they have to recruit local change makers in community after community after community, because that's the only way their idea spreads. The citizen sector is now growing jobs at three times the rate of the rest of society. Why? Because with this wave of entrepreneurship, we're catching up on productivity with business.

HINOJOSA: Finally, Bill Drayton, at the Global Philanthropy Forum, former President Bill Clinton said, "I hope I live long enough to see Drayton win the Nobel Prize." So, when Bill Clinton said that, that must have been pretty exciting?

DRAYTON: You know, one--one of the things that's really thrilling to me is that two of the last three Nobel Prize winners have been social entrepreneurs. This is a recognition that our field is maturing. His comment, which I managed to step out of the room at just the wrong for, I hope is a recognition of that broader pattern.

HINOJOSA: Bill, I guess you lost your voice, because you're just being out there being a change maker. Am I right?

DRAYTON: I think it may be something more simple like a bug on the flight back from Europe.

HINOJOSA: Bill Drayton, thank you so much for joining us on Now in the News.

DRAYTON: Thank you.

HINOJOSA: To find out more about our new series of programs called Enterprising Ideas, visit It's Our program was produced by Karin Kamp. I'm Maria Hinojosa. Thanks very much, and we'll talk to again next time.

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