By Attending 2004 Echoing Green Foundation Conference, RWJF Staff Identify Traits of "Social Entrepreneurs" Who Drive Health Care Innovation

Supporting the Echoing Green Fellows Conference for emerging social innovators

Staff from the Echoing Green Foundation convened a focus group and reception with the organization's Fellows during its annual Current Fellows Conference, held in Newark, N.J., November 11–14, 2004.

The goal of the grant was to provide Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff with the opportunity to meet and learn from Echoing Green Fellows and alumni, who are social entrepreneurs and/or health care innovators.

Key Conclusions

  • True innovators are rare and probably born rather than bred. When people become interested in an issue, their creativity is instantly engaged. What makes someone an innovator is his/her determination to act in bold new ways once a problem is identified.

  • ocial entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector just as their counterparts do in the for-profit sector. Social entrepreneurs exhibit qualities and traits that are unique. They:

    • adopt a mission to create and sustain social value.
    • recognize and relentlessly pursue new opportunities to serve that mission.
    • engage in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning.
    • act boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand.
    • exhibit heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.
  • Social entrepreneurs have a high level of unwavering passion that cannot be motivated by outside incentives. Passion is internal currency not affected by external factors. You either have it or you don't. It is such an extraordinary tool because it does not waiver in the face of challenges or obstacles.

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