Last week when speaking on the “Creating Private Capital Markets” Panel at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, I noted that one of the big opportunities for Acumen Fund and other organizations in our sector is to capitalize on a huge influx of talent. Demand to work in our sector is at an all-time high, the result of the rising profile of social enterprise; the blowup in the financial sector (a lot of people with financial skills are rethinking their path); and, hopefully, because society as a whole (or at least the younger generation) is taking a momentary pause to reconsider our definitions of success.
Acumen Fund and other organizations in our sector are currently experiencing overwhelming levels of interest. One data point that I mentioned on the panel: for the 10 summer internship positions Acumen Fund has open globally, we received 700 applications from an amazing group of candidates. We’re going to do our best to find the 10 people who are the best fit for our needs this summer, but the bigger, harder question is, “What about the other 690?”
This question was salient enough that Jonathan Greenblatt, co-founder of Ethos Water, saw fit to repeat it in the lunchtime plenary panel where he spoke together with Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka; Clara Miller, CEO of the NonProfit Finance Fund; and lecturer and political analyst David Gergen. This helped me realize that “the other 690” isn’t just a question for Acumen Fund, it’s a question for our sector. With all of the creative destruction underway in the global economy, there’s a fundamental shift in how talent will be deployed. For burgeoning sectors like ours, this creates a demand/supply imbalance for talent, and a collective opportunity if we want to take it.
A couple of ideas to chew on:
What if some of the economic stimulus money were used to create a new Global Peace Corps, one that takes some of the best and brightest people of all ages from around the world and gives them opportunities to work on projects (private and public) that are creating positive social change?
What if all of the 690 people who applied to Acumen Fund’s summer internship – plus their colleagues who are interested in working at Endeavor and Root Capital and the World Resources Institute and the International Aids Vaccine Initiative and the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation and a hundred other fascinating places to work – created vibrant, online communities on Ning or Facebook or Twitter or through NetImpact to share their own entrepreneurial business ideas, and what if the best of these ideas were made available to early-stage investors and grantmakers and social venture competitions run by business schools around the world?
What else should we be doing?