By Ted Yavuzkurt
I’ve often wondered how I could “do something” to “give back.” For me, this used to conjure up visions of working for a non-profit, joining the Peace Corps or taking a teaching gig in the inner city. I believed I had to to choose between a life of service or a life of success; I believed that following my conscience meant poverty, while following my passion meant selling out.
I’ve since realized this is not necessarily true. There are many ways to engage in service. Not all involve picking up a shovel. That type of volunteerism is certainly critical-but it’s not for everyone.
I heard about Social Entrepreneurship for the first time as a sophomore at Duke
University. The idea was simple: apply business principles to social problems, instead of seeking to maximize revenue, maximize social good.
A social enterprise didn’t have to be a non-profit; it just couldn’t be only for profit. I learned about social entrepreneurs like Mohammad Yunus and organizations like Ashoka. They were using rigorous business techniques to transform the world.
This was immediately appealing to me; here was a way to effectively address humanity’s biggest problems.
There was just one problem. I couldn’t be a social entrepreneur-not yet. Family responsibilities and other stresses meant it was not possible to commit the necessary time and attention. In the long run, I’m still quite interested in running a social enterprise, but right now it’s not in the cards.
Was I back to a choice between working for a non-profit or selling out? Nope.
Today, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a big deal. Many companies have committed themselves to making a positive impact on the world as they earn money. Sure, one could argue that some companies may do this just to look good. At the end of the day though, many are having a positive, measurable impact on society. I dig it.
I’m spending my summer with UniversalGiving, a social enterprise earning money from CSR consulting. While I’m here, I’ll be doing a side project with Duke researching the CSR industry and learning about companies that truly walk the walk.
I hope we’ll all see that service isn’t just working for an NGO or toiling away under the hot sun. Service is a commitment to sharing one’s talent for the benefit of others: wherever, whenever and however possible.