Social Entrepreneurship and Non-Linear Dynamics: Chaos Theory in Service of Social Change

 By Ale Carvalho

174-holmes.jpgSocial Entrepreneurship and Non-Linear Dynamics: Chaos Theory in Service of Social Change

(and while at it, let’s borrow Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty too)

Main thesis –   Powerful ideas implemented in the simplest form and in the smallest contexts possible have the potential to produce butterfly effects either by themselves or with the aid of a minimum set of enablers.

Today I was at the United Nations Development Programme talking amenities to Charles, a senior staff member from the Environment and Energy Group. Very cool guy. The topic of my upcoming Haiti trip came about, and we started discussing innovative approaches to care after a harsh disaster. Our conversation revolved around the care for the soul, care for the heart, and care for the spirit – not only the body as mainstream efforts so narrowly focus on. Music popped up as a venue, and we exchanged ideas for at least 20 minutes.

Charles then mentioned a small grassroots group in Kenya that started a soccer league and was using soccer as a way to bring self-esteem and life guidance to underprivileged kids. And he went on to say that they eventually became something big, with recognition and reach outside of the borders of Kenya.

That thought amazed me. How can such a tiny little effort, in such a tiny little place in Kenya, somehow reached the voices of two people at the United Nations in New York? and suddenly their work was being cherished and discussed by two people miles and miles away?

Eureka. That’s the Butterfly Effect through a lens of Social Change. When powerful ideas with sufficient key enablers grow and reach the Tipping Point of Social Breakthrough (TPSB), oh my! they spread like wildfire around the community, city and sometimes world, changing mindsets and influencing new initiatives that will further positive impact.

Good ideas are highly contagious, resilient, and only perish when one stops believing on them, either because they weren’t successful in producing the desired measurable effects or simply because the brain that generated the thought stop believing in it. And quit honestly, inventors of new things – be them prototypes or new ideas – are well known for being very stubborn to accept that the numbers were fair and clean when assessing their inventions and tend to continue spending time and even money on a condemned project. So in the end, as Plato would love to hear, ideas – like gods or deities – only die if you stop believing them.

So we should have a beautiful incubator of butterflies. Released around the globe with the minimum necessary, in the form of proof-of-concepts that may eventually become full-fledged projects or organizations, and who knows? Wingflaps in Cambodia, Kenya, Chad, Rio de Janeiro, Cuba, Mexico, Prague, Australia, and many other places in the world – and so sorry conventional wisdom: we have a big hurricane of change coming from all sides and been picked up by many different entrepreneurs that will advance, refine, and make the thought more elegant by adding new lessons learned.

 How many of them ideas will generate hurricanes? How many of them will die? Impossible to know beforehand. Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty. But do we have any choice but to have faith and launch?… see what happens? That’s the thrill of Social Entrepreneurship. Ultimately a Leap of Faith into the unknown.  That’s the thrill of life. That’s something worth living for.




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