On Monday, Chris wrote about the importance of positive energy, in particular for the Social Enterprise sector. I’m a huge fan of positive momentum and spirit, but first a bit of caution: do not create false positivity. Look for reasons to feel good about facts, not fiction.
As Chris mentioned, we should “strive for a balance between discussing the harsh realities faced at the BoP and highlighting the constant inspiration that BoP entrepreneurs provide”. In all situations, you should look for inspiration from truth, rather than hearsay.
Positive energy that is baseless will always have a temporary lift effect, but as we well know, once its falsehood is discovered, all of the positive momentum can quickly be replaced with negative drop in sentiment.
Fallen heroes serve as great examples: many will recall that last year Greg Mortensen was publicly humiliated when reports surfaced that the schools he claimed to be building in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan didn’t actually exist. The news was deflating; many, including myself, had been inspired by Mortensen’s Three Cups of Tea.
I can’t say with certainty that the claims against Mortensen were true, though I did visit the region of Chittral last year where a few of the schools are located and couldn’t find evidence of them (I also didn’t look that hard).
Mortensen’s example shows how quickly sentiments can change & the vultures can come picking if a shred of doubt is cast on a hero.
Social enterprise has become the darling of the social sector in recent years, but we are still a fragile industry. At this stage, we must collectively dance in the limelight with caution, respect and honesty.
There is a lot to be positive about, but ground yourself in truths rather than falsehoods, otherwise you’ll be shocked when negative charges occur. Out of respect for your fellow social entrepreneurs, tell all the stories of glorious impact that you can, but make sure they are rooted in reality and not inflated with hyperbole.