Enjoy this transcript of our interview with Teresa Chahine, the inaugural Sheila and Ron ’92 B.A. Marcelo Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at the Yale School of Management.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Thank you everybody for tuning in, we are very excited and lucky today to have Teresa Chahine. Excuse me if I mispronounced that, please. Why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners, please?
TERESA CHAHINE: Thank you, Jean-Pierre. It's very rare that someone pronounces my name correctly from the first try. That's something that I will never forget that you did that.
Hi, everyone! So happy to be here with you today. My name is Teresa Chahine, and I share many common traits with our host today. We’re both coming from Lebanon, we're both interested in the social impact sector.
My own training is in public health. I've dedicated my life to improving drivers of health, which most people know as social and environmental determinants of health. And this basically includes everything from education to jobs, to the environment, to transportation, pollution.
Everything around you is public health. That is the context that I teach social entrepreneurship in. I'm a senior lecturer in social entrepreneurship at Yale University and that's what we're here to talk about today.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I can't express to you how happy and excited I am on so many different levels. Just intuitively on a genetic level, it's been shown when you are speaking with someone or meet someone that is from your same geographic area, you're automatically excited.
So the fact that you're Lebanese and working on something that I think is critical and is going to continue to be at the forefront of mass consciousness and our zeitgeist, which is social entrepreneurship and social impact. The fact that it's someone from Lebanon doing this at such a prestigious university just makes me proud to even know you so thank you for being here.
TERESA CHAHINE: Thank you. And you know, now that you brought that up, I have to say I think that there are so many social entrepreneurs in Lebanon, and I'm sure most listeners are familiar with the story of how entrepreneurial Lebanese people are because in any country that you live in around the world, you probably know a very entrepreneurial Lebanese person.
I think there’s only 4 million Lebanese people in Lebanon and there's more than 15 million around the world. They all find themselves in very difficult situations, very low resource situations. They innovate and they mobilize resources and they bootstrap and they build things. I think that it's just like you said, it's in our genes.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes, you're right, whether you're in Lagos, Nigeria or Cartagena, Colombia, or Dubai or New York.
TERESA CHAHINE: Yeah. And you're the personification of that.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Thank you. I appreciate that. I have such lofty goals that I always feel that I'm nowhere near accomplishing them. That's why I'm just laughing at myself. I don't feel that I have accomplished anywhere near what I want.
TERESA CHAHINE: Well, that's what keeps you going? That's what drives you?
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes. You know, this week, I don't know why - I'm just so excited about the projects I'm working on. This is very much about you and not about me, but I've been waking up at two, three in the morning, every day so eager to start my day.
Now, I do go to bed at eight or nine. I don't drink too often, so I get a decent amount of sleep, but when I go to bed I'm excited to wake up already just to get going.
TERESA CHAHINE: It's funny, you said that because that happens to me very rarely. Maybe once or twice a year or less, but it did happen to me this very morning.
I woke up and tried to go back to sleep. And a while later I decided, you know, I've had enough sleep. I'm energetic. Let me get out of bed. And I look at the clock and it's just not even 4 am. And I did have a couple of drinks last night, so I forced myself to stay in and go back to sleep.
But that feeling of waking up super early, the way you did and just being to get out of bed, I think, I guess there's just good energy in the air these days and there's a sense of possibility, especially in the US after this week. Everyone's just excited to roll up their sleeves and make change happen.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I think they are. Do you speak Spanish by chance?
TERESA CHAHINE: Yeah, a little bit because I went to elementary school in Texas during the Lebanese Civil War. They taught us Spanish and ever since then, I have the basic foundations.
All my life I've looked for opportunities to strengthen my Spanish. I took lessons at the Instituto Cervantes in Beirut for a couple of years when I was working at the Ministry of Social Affairs. Everywhere I go, I just befriend Latina people because the culture is so similar and there's so much warmth and energy.
Everywhere I travel, people assume that I am Latina. And so I just try to do my best. I think when Arabic is your native tongue, you have a really good Spanish accent so that helps.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I want you to tell our listeners about your book “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship”. And the reason I want you to do that is because the purpose of this podcast is to empower individuals who want to change the world to do it with actionable steps.
There is a lot of high-level “Let's clean up a beach”, “Let's stop throwing away plastic”. And I love that and we need to continue spreading that message. But from an actionable viewpoint that doesn't help an individual who wants to do good and necessarily figure out what to do next.
So part of this podcast is to accumulate as much intellectual know-how as possible from individuals like yourself who think about these topics deeply and disseminate that information with individuals so they can pick and choose the pieces that make sense for them to go out and make their own positive impact.
TERESA CHAHINE: Okay. So the premise behind the book, “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship”, which by the way, is coming out in the second edition next year. We'll probably have a new name, but I guess just look for the author, name and you'll find it.
So the premise is that not everyone needs to be a social entrepreneur or can or should be a social entrepreneur, but everyone can learn from the mindset and skillset, and principles of social entrepreneurship in order to mobilize resources to amplify their impact.
The principles of social entrepreneurship are basically that you’re using entrepreneurial methods to change the status quo to a new and more just equilibrium. And that's very important because many people ask me: “Why do you talk about social entrepreneurship? Isn't all entrepreneurship social, because you're contributing to the economy and you're creating jobs?”
It's true that all entrepreneurship to a certain degree is social. What makes social entrepreneurship something you need to talk about is that it includes if not targets marginalized and underserved populations.
Oftentimes commercial entrepreneurship has as its target and as its customers people who already have resources. It’s increasing the gap between the haves and the haves nots.
As technology is developed for a certain subset of the population, this leaves other parts of the population farther and farther behind and social entrepreneurship at least includes if not specifically targets those that are being left behind and that's what makes it unique.
People often ask me: ”You know, should I quit my job and start something new, and is social entrepreneurship about starting something?”
And I always tell them: ”No, if you have a job and you're able to provide for your family, keep it!”
Especially because you already have the infrastructure and the resources of your job at your disposal so you might have a bigger impact if you can mobilize those resources towards positive social change.
For example, if you work at a bank, the bank already has other employees that are interested in social change. It already has financial resources. It already has communications resources and a platform. You can just ask yourself: ”What am I positioned to change about the status quo as part of this institution? How can this institution change?”
Maybe even something small that it's doing and create a huge impact. And that's called intrapreneurship. So anyone can be an intrepreneur within the organization they're working at by applying social entrepreneurship principles.
And lastly, I like to talk about social entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and extrapreneurship, which just started out as a word that I created as a joke.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Wait, you invented that word?
TERESA CHAHINE: I didn't invent it. I think it's been used in so many different contexts because one of my students went and Googled it and told me like, oh, extrapreneurship, this is such a weird word and people use it to mean different things.
But what I use it to mean is that entrepreneurs think within the boundaries of one organization, right? Like I'm going to build this organization, I'm going to grow it, I'm going to sell it in some cases.
Intrepreneurs also think within the walls of one organization, even though it's an organization, they didn't necessarily found and extrapreneurs think beyond the walls of any organization and the way that I use that word there, they're really innovating across multiple institutions.
I think that is the most important characteristic of social entrepreneurship and social change is that you can't do this alone. You have to work with others. And in order to change the status quo, you need multiple institutions. You need the private sector working with the public sector, working with the civil sector, working with academia.
So we need everyone to think like an extrapreneur.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I like where you head with this. Let’s shift gears for a second. Tell us about the program you started at Harvard.
TERESA CHAHINE: So I went to Harvard to study public health. And five years later, I found myself just crunching numbers. I was sitting, working on my doctoral dissertation and analyzing data with thousands of columns and rows.
My sister, who I lived with at the time, walked up behind me and looked over my shoulder, and said: ”Wow, I bet this is not what you thought you'd be doing when you decided to pursue a career in public health.”
She was right because I was there to create an impact and to help people. And I was being trained in number crunching which is a very valuable skill of course, but what frustrated me is that here was an institution where you were getting people from around the world that were dedicating their lives to improving society.
We were being trained to analyze problems, but not necessarily to solve them. I never heard about the word “social entrepreneurship” until my last semester, when I stumbled across the river to Harvard Business School and Jim Kim who at the time was at Harvard Medical School. He was one of the founders of partners in health. Later, went on to lead The World’s Bank.
He was quoted as telling students at Harvard Business School: ”We need you to solve global health problems because public health students don't have the right acumen.”
And that really stuck with me. I realized, yes, of course, we need people from different sectors to work on public health problems. But this needs to be led by public health people, not the other way around. We need public health people to have not only more business acumen, but also more creative confidence to say: ”I'm not just going to study a problem to death. I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty and fix it.”
I went back as a disgruntled customer after I graduated and I told the curriculum committee, this is unacceptable. We need to have social entrepreneurship in our curriculum. And they said: ”Yeah, you're right. So do it. Why don't you do it?”
So I started teaching a course called ”Social Entrepreneurship and Health and the Environment” in 2012, which was the same year that I launched Alfanar in Lebanon.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: That's your venture philanthropy organization.
TERESA CHAHINE: Yeah. It's a venture philanthropy organization that provides tailored financing and critical nonfinancial support to social enterprises, serving marginalized populations, largely through job creation and education for women and youth. I was just figuring things out as I went along and this added to my frustration, like I'm not the first person that wanted to do these things.
Why am I having to figure things as I go along? And so I started this course at my Alma Mater as a disgruntled customer and tried to pull together resources about social entrepreneurship.
My work in Lebanon informed my teaching and my teaching and research informed my work in Lebanon. It was very symbiotic and I eventually created this textbook “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship” for the course, and to help others who wanted to teach this material, not have to start from scratch the way I did and who, more importantly, wanted to practice this material.
Eventually, things snowballed and Alfanar was really growing, my academic work was really growing. So I handed over Alfanar to a new country director a few years ago and decided to make academia my home base. To me, that was kind of my transition across the four levels of impact, which I can tell you about later in the podcast.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes, I know. Absolutely. Why don't we just jump right into that since you touched on it?
TERESA CHAHINE: So basically the four layers of impact is something that Bill Drayton and “Ashoka: Innovators for the Public” talk about.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Just a second for our listeners that don't know what Ashoka is, I highly recommend you Google it.
That's A S H O K A, a phenomenal organization doing very, very important work. Please check that out.
TERESA CHAHINE: So Ashoka supports social entrepreneurs around the world who are working to create the status quo and it was founded by Bill Drayton around 30 years ago, I suppose, if not more…
And the theory of change was that if you find people working to change the status quo, and if you support them and put them together in a network you'll be able to amplify their impact and change systems and change frameworks.
Four levels of impact they talk about are - the first is direct service. Every social entrepreneur needs to start with direct service and the sense that they are working in a job where they are providing the service to an end-user. For example, a teacher teaches a student, so you need to have that kind of experience in direct service in order to change frameworks and education. My first advice is to start with what you know.
Then the second layer of impact is scaled service. If you're a social entrepreneur, you're not satisfied with teaching one student or teaching a hundred students, you want to scale that impact and reach millions of students. So social entrepreneurs are ambitious and the scale that they aim to create impact, it's not just about helping one person or a small number of people, but many.
When you think about scaling your impact, the first layer of that is scaling your direct service. But then at the end of the day, we are not McDonald's. We are not aiming to serve millions. We're aiming to transform the problem so that we don't have to provide these services.
And so the third layer of impact is systems change. How can we actually change the education system? So Bill Drayton was quoted as saying, you know, the famous quote that instead of giving a man a fish, you teach a man to fish, but actually social entrepreneurs are not satisfied until they revolutionize the fishing industry and that's systems change. Like in the case of the teacher, can we change the education system? What is it that's broken about the system that I need to provide remedial education to these students?
And then finally frameworks change happens. When you not only are reforming or transforming the existing system, but completely changing the way people think about it and sticking to the education example.
I spoke with Bill Drayton recently, interviewing him for the second edition and he said: ”A hundred years ago, we decided that every child needs to be literate. That was a framework for education. And now every child needs to be a changemaker. That is a new framework. It's not a new system, it's a new framework.”
It's a new way of looking at things. And so if you can shift frameworks, that is so powerful.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: You gave me goosebumps, Teresa.
TERESA CHAHINE: These are the four levels of impact. I really struggled when I was moving from Alfanar where I was providing more direct service and helping social enterprises scale. Well, they were providing the direct service. I was helping them to scale their impact and scale their service. I kind of felt guilty like: ”Oh, I'm moving to academia. Like I'm not going to have an impact anymore.”
I'm used to grassroots to getting my hands dirty, but then talking to people like Bill and others helped me realize, well - if you want to change systems, and if you want to change frameworks, it's a different kind of impact and you have to do both and it's okay to focus on one or the other at different stages in your life.
I feel that here I have the opportunity to help change frameworks and change the way people think about their impact. And it's funny being in a management school where you've been trained in public health but, you know, half of my students are public health students and half are management students.
I always tell them that: ”I'm not here to teach you how to start your own startup. Some of you might.”
And I already had a few people launch ventures out of the course that I teach using this book. But regardless of what job you have, you can mobilize resources for social impact. You can challenge the status quo.
I think that that is a framework change, and that is how everybody activates the social entrepreneur inside of them. Not by starting something new, but just by questioning assumptions, challenging the status quo, and mobilizing resources in a new way.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: You've opened up so many doors that we can go down. Let's start with a couple that really touched me. One, you very elegantly and perfectly encompassed what I am aiming to do with the orphanage I'm opening. I haven't talked about that on this podcast before, but because you just touched on the framework, change and systems change and how we need to make every child a change-maker and teach them that from a young age, that's exactly what I aim to do at the orphanage at X1 academy.
I need to start thinking about the curriculum and perhaps just use your book as part of the curriculum for these kids. And then you talked about systems and framework change.
Funny enough, when I started this podcast, it was to understand what change-makers are doing inefficiently because one of my projects is to create and build and something I've already started - the first AI platform to help social impact and philanthropy to understand the things that are working and are not. I started with asking people who were creating change successfully, how they're doing it, what systems are they using? And you would be surprised at the fact that 10 and 20-year-old organizations are using spreadsheets to manage their processes.
I do believe that the tech industry, whilst there are some softwares that have that help philanthropy and social impact causes, they are basically really good CRMs. I don't believe that we have used and leveraged machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand what works.
I'll give you a small example of an idea, and then maybe that can unlock a kernel of thought on your end and we could pull on that string.
When you analyze social media data, which there is plenty of publicly available data to look at using big data, analytics, and machine learning. A lot of people that care about the environment, social impact, justice, social reform self identify these things on social media, and publicly, they will use emojis, they are saying “no plastic”. They will tell you exactly what they care about.
You know, it's funny, there's a joke that says: ”How do you know someone does CrossFit? Don't worry though. They’ll tell you.”
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Same thing with how do you know somebody is a vegan? Don't worry. Within two minutes of meeting them, you'll know.
And so I want to analyze all this data and I've already accumulated several terabytes of social media data amongst the 80 million or 100 million different accounts to really understand who can fit into a particular bucket, so to speak. Let's use you as an example, let's say I find your LinkedIn profile and match it to an Instagram profile or a Facebook profile.
And then quickly I'm able to create a general high-level understanding of what you care about. We won't necessarily say: ”Teresa, join us at the beach to clean it up.”
That is a poor use of a marketing message to someone who can much more efficiently change the world and give more impact. So we might say: “Teresa, can you help us organize a group and lead a discussion on how to change the systems being used to organize beach cleanups around the world?”
For example, right? So I want to use machine learning to identify who are the doers on the ground, who are the organizers, who are the thinkers, who are the connectors, who are the funders?
And connect all of these in a way that over time I can fine-tune the system to really enact powerful change.
TERESA CHAHINE: Yeah, and that really goes back to what we were saying about how each person is already positioned to have an impact within their existing job, either as a funder or as a connector or an organizer or doer.
Right, no matter what your job is, you can either, sticking to your example, go to the beach cleanup or provide income contributions to support the beach cleanup or fund the scaling of beach cleanups, or spread the word about the beach cleanup or tell others. And so what you're describing is a way to connect with each person and the way that activates them to mobilize their resources at their disposal, whether it's their hands and feet or something else.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes, exactly. One of the things I want to do is fund a medical level study, where we attach all the most advanced technology to individuals and talk about the things they care about and figure out what parts of the brain are activated during those conversations to understand what it is that moves and drives people physically to be excited and care about change.
And this is something that I'm currently unpacking based on a research study I saw in Wired magazine recently, and I'm contacting that same doctor to help organize that study.
TERESA CHAHINE: And, you know, just to comment on what you just said, everybody is excited about social change and some people feel paralyzed and they just don't know...They don't feel that they are agents of change because of the circumstances of their life because of their environment.
Having worked, for example, with refugee populations in Lebanon with Alfanar one of the things we noticed is that yes, the financial and management support we're providing helps them improve their programs but actually one of the biggest impact we're having is that the leaders of these programs go from feeling largely helpless and hopeless about the extent to which they can create change to having more agency.
This speaks to one of the things that I talk about in the book, which is how do you measure impact?
In a commercial venture, you know, you're successful because there's one metric, which is the financial currency, like the dollar sign. That tells you how successful you are in social ventures. It's different that, you know, the revenue is a means to an end. The financial viability is a means to an end and so the success metric is based on the change you're trying to create.
And what is your theory of change? And so one of the things that I noticed is - an obstacle in this field is related to funding, social change, because funders look at indicators of success to decide what is a successful investment and what isn't.
So one thing that I would like our audience to know if we're to expand this field and if we're to activate each person as an agent of change, is that we need to look beyond the types of surface levels indicators that are being used in the field today.
For example, you know, how many beaches did you clean up? You're not going to invest in the organization that cleans up the most beaches because they're not changing the status quo, right?
You're not going to invest in the person who's teaching the most students because the goal is to change the system and change the framework. And so what funders and impact investors are doing now are funding organizations that reach the largest number of people.
That has two negative consequences. The first is that it's only looking at the quantitative metrics and it's not looking at the deeper levels of change.
The second is that it encourages people to place their bets on the winning courses. So the kinds of social entrepreneurs I've been working with, for example, a refugee in Lebanon will never get on their radar because she's not reaching large numbers of people, but she is reaching the people that are the most difficult to reach.
And so how do you capture that in an indicator and how do you capture something like the fact that people now have agency after they work with her and after they work with Alfanar?
Because agency is something that will have huge ripple effects. Once someone is activated as an agent of change and they no longer feel helpless and hopeless, that's when you can change the status quo and that's when you can change systems and frameworks. So that's definitely something I wanted to mention because everything we've talked about up till now, can be captured as a success metric and as an impact metric.
So it's something that's important for our audience to know that for each of these four levels of impact, you need to think about what does success looks like and how can you measure it and what is an indicator of success? And that's something that the field of social entrepreneurship and the funding social entrepreneurship is working on and can get way better at, and knowing you, you might come up with some kind of new business or AI way to help contribute towards that.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Well, thank you. I appreciate the vote of confidence. I tell you that it is something I think about daily and I'm trying to figure out certainly foundationally how to get that score hard going. Whether you're playing Pac-Man or enacting social impact, if you can create a way to propel it forward on its own, without having to be hat in hand, asking for donations from private individuals or governments, you have a much higher risk of success.
If you're able to somehow attach a revenue, driving profit-making component to the process that goes without saying that you see the shift amongst private equity and venture capital, family funds, institutions, pension funds.
They do want to enact social impact. They don't want to give away money just because. They want it to be an investment that can grow and manage itself on its own and actually have that impact.
As you said, not how many beaches have we cleaned up, but how many people have we taught to organize beach cleanups?
I believe it is much more leverage…
TERESA CHAHINE: ...and not pollute the beach in the first place.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Absolutely. Yes, we will get to the root cause. Getting to the root cause is critical because you can clean up a beach, but you know, by the time you're done cleaning up, I think I'm just guessing here a million times more waste has ended up in the ocean that will end up on that beach anyway.
TERESA CHAHINE: Exactly, and getting to the root cause is the core of systems thinking and systems change.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Correct. So for example, I started a company. I'm not going to plug it here cause that's not the purpose of the podcast, but the goal is to eliminate plastic in a specific niche. And I thought about, well, how can I affect that particular issue, right? Plastic waste.
I can't address plastic waste in Malaysia or Kazakhstan or China necessarily, but if I'm based in Miami and I spend my time in LA, what can I do in America coast to coast that will somehow reduce plastic in a measurable, impactful way? I came across an idea which I'll talk about at some future point.
My goal is to eliminate billions of a certain part of plastic from ending up in landfills. And I came across the solution and I'm working actively to address it. But I do think that entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs at corporations have to decide to focus on one avenue and solve that problem.
People made fun of the group who were anti-straw. Like they say, what is getting rid of a plastic straw going to do?
TERESA CHAHINE: Do the math. And you'll answer that question.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: And just as importantly, there's an invisible factor. What has it done to create a mind shift, a swell in consciousness about the problem? So it's not just the straw.
It's that we have gotten politicians to start thinking about plastic waste. We have gotten corporations to now consider this problem. Hotel managers, restaurant owners…
TERESA CHAHINE: And then they start thinking: ”Wow, if eliminating straws can have this impact, how else, what else could I eliminate or modify to have an even more amplified impact?”
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Exactly. And so there is no particular cause that I think is necessarily too small. If you are solving a root issue and creating consciousness amongst people that may not have had it because I was not an environmentalist and I don't necessarily self-identify as one today, but I care about the environment so I don't know where that line is drawn. How do you define it if you're an environmentalist?
Well, if you care about the environment, I guess, well, maybe I am one, right? But I started thinking about this just from a common-sense perspective. I want to enjoy the ocean. I live in Miami Beach in Miami.
I want to jump in the ocean without thinking about swallowing microplastics. I want to eat a piece of salmon without thinking about digesting...you know, supposedly Americans digest enough microplastics every year to form over 50 credit cards in terms of the shape of plastic and quantity of plastic. That's insane.
I also read a recent article that a doctor discovered plastic inside a newborn child that had been digested through the mom's eating patterns, which is pretty sad. We need to solve this problem immediately. Now, does that mean plastic is bad? No. That's the other issue. You can't swing too hard in either direction of the pendulum.
Plastic is critical. Heart valves, airplanes, cars, tons of medical devices, things that are absolutely important for modern civilization to progress require plastic. So we can't say all plastic is bad, that's just silly. There is a certain level of education that needs to go into the population on this topic but we are headed in the right direction.
I see a lot of social media influencers. One of my friends, Jenny Lopez, is working on textiles and clothing that is environmentally friendly, for example, and that is absolutely a direction we need to head in because the amount of synthetic microparticles that end up in our water system because of the clothing industry and fast fashion is really harming the environment and we don't even see it.
You see, we see the plastic on the beach. You don't see the tiny little particles that end up in the ocean because when you throw your clothes in the washing machine and that drains out somewhere, it has to go somewhere. So that's harming, but let's go back to what you're teaching your students.
One of the questions I like to ask is - how has this impacted your life? How has your life changed since you started down this path?
TERESA CHAHINE: That's a great question. For me, it's really a balance of wanting to see the short-term impact and long-term impact. I think that's the way my life has been impacted by this field.
I might've mentioned my first job ever was in the Ministry of Social Affairs in Lebanon, and I was working on a UN project. I've always been socially oriented, but it's a matter of how can it be more entrepreneurial and have more impact.
In my first job I spent like 90% of my time writing reports about what I was going to do or what I just finished doing and 10% of the time actually doing it. A lot of colleagues who work in UN institutions and government institutions have said that they feel the same way. And so when I went to do my doctoral degree in comeback, I couldn't...My plan was always to go back to doing the same job, except maybe at a higher level.
I couldn't bring myself to go back to that kind of work because I was just burning to...I had the sense of urgency that I wanted to see impact now, I wanted to make a difference now. That's how I got into social entrepreneurship because I just didn't want to be a cog in the machine and just a paper chef in a large organization.
That's how I got into the direct service. And over time I realized that we need both. And that's how I'm changing as I mature and progress in the field of social impact and social changes that we do need that sense of urgency that entrepreneurs have to see change now. And at the same time, we need long-term thinking that recognizes that change which sticks is flow.
That's part of systems thinking and part of extrapreneurship and working within multiple institutions. That's how it's changed my life and that's how it's changed me and has changed over time is finding that balance between the urgency and the creative content to say, we're going to fix this now and the long-term thinking and systems thinking about...it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.
And if you're going to work with multiple stakeholders and if you're going to work with systems-led thinking, then it's going to be much sobering, but it's important to know.
Because the kinds of changes that we're hoping to create are not the kinds of changes that are made by: ”Okay, let's do it!!!”
Which is the ethos that college students and young people have like: ”Okay, let's do it. Let's change it. Now. I want change. Now.”
That's great. And you need to learn to channel that energy into realizing you're not the first person that wants to solve it. You're not the first person who tried to solve it.
So you need to start with what is the problem you're trying to solve. Who does it affect and why? Who has tried working on this before? What has worked and what hasn't and how can you build on that? Who are all the stakeholders involved and all the actors involved and how can you work with them? It's a much longer process.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: You know, it's funny you say that. I tell my son and entrepreneurs that come to me for advice: ”Think of it like a slingshot. If you want to propel forward, fast and far, you first have to take a few steps back the way you pull a slingshot back to give it momentum.”
And so oftentimes you're just finishing college. You're finishing Teresa’s course, you may need to take a few steps back and analyze the problem from a different angle and go back to studying the issue. Go back to studying the framework, talk to people who've tried to solve it.
Another thing I'd like entrepreneurs to know is - please do me a favor and don't ask someone you're talking to about your idea for an NDA or a non-compete or to sign anything because the ideas you've had, like you said, that I thought other people have had, you know, you're not inventing something new necessarily.
Even if you are, consider the fact that the person you're talking to has to care to do that in the first place, and most people already have their life going on.
Most of these projects have such a high level of failure that you need to be completely devoted to it as if it was your life's mission for it to have a whisper of a chance of success.
TERESA CHAHINE: Yeah. And you said two really important things just now. The first thing you said is you can't do this alone. You can't do this alone. You have to let others be part of the solution.
The second thing that you alluded to a couple of times actually in the past hour, is - don't be married to the solution or the idea. Be married to the problem. You start with the problem because the solution is going to change so many times as you test and iterate different solutions, but it's really understanding the problem that needs to be the starting point.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: It's very interesting how you heard between the lines. I liked that. I didn't say it, but you caught it.
TERESA CHAHINE: Yeah. I think these are the main things that I would like listeners to walk away from going back to what we've talked about in the past hour. First, no matter what your job is, you can mobilize resources in a new way to change the status quo towards a new and more just equilibrium.
You don't have to start something new. You can be an intrepreneur. And regardless of whether you're starting a new organization or working within an existing organization, think like an extrapreneur, think across institutions, work with others, understand the root cause, understand the problem you're solving.
And start with that. Don't start with an idea and don't be a hammer looking for a nail and apply systems thinking to understand who's working on this? What has been tried before? What has worked and what hasn't and think about the four levels of change and how you measure success at each level - direct service, scaled direct service, systems change and frameworks change.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: That's right. I'd like to start to close it out because we're coming up on an hour. I think we could probably talk for 10, but we're going to save that for another day cause I have a feeling that we're going to be doing this again, I hope.
TERESA CHAHINE: I hope so too. Thank you.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I'd like to say that you shouldn't get caught up there. Our listeners shouldn't get caught up in the terminology - entrepreneur, extrapreneur. If you don't know what that means, it doesn't matter.
If you have an idea and you work in a company, do everything you can to talk to everybody in the company about that idea on how your company can make a change. That's what an entrepreneur is. Simple. There's nothing more to it.
TERESA CHAHINE: And I will add to what you just said. If you don't have an idea, but care about a problem, that's where it starts - talk to everyone in the company about the problem you care about and see how you can come up with ideas together. And that's also how you can be an intrapreneur.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: There is a very bad piece of advice that goes around. There's some kind of guru quote, which is “Don't bring me problems, give me solutions.”
That's terrible as a quote.
Absolutely bring me problems because it's only by talking about these problems with the people around you, with individuals like Teresa and me...if you want, just contact me so that you can start to find solutions together,
TERESA CHAHINE: Right! Mobilize people around the problem and co-create solutions with those impacted the most by that problem.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes. And before we go, tell us about diligent rocketeer.
TERESA CHAHINE: Me?
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes! Why diligent rocketeer?
TERESA CHAHINE: I thought that was you! I was wondering, I just saw it on my screen and I thought that was you!
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I thought that was you!
TERESA CHAHINE: I have no idea!
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Maybe it’s the Universe is saying something and we don't know what it's saying but we’re going to figure it out.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Teresa, thank you so much for your time.
TERESA CHAHINE: Thank you. It's been wonderful chatting with you and thanks to all our listeners for joining.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Absolutely. If someone wants to get a hold of you, what's the best way?
TERESA CHAHINE: The best way is to connect on social media. I'm on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at Teresa Chahine. And there's also a Facebook group for the book “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship”.
And my website is teresachahine.com. You can see short videos of each chapter in the book, as well as my blog and my own podcast “Impact & Innovation” at the Yale School of Management.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Ah, beautiful! I'm so excited that you're on the show. I can't wait to do this again with you. Thank you.
TERESA CHAHINE: Thank you so much!
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: My pleasure.