Pamela Hartigan wants to dump the word ‘social entrepreneur’

 Pamela Hartigan on the subject of social entrepreneurship from "Why you dont have to be a social entrepreneur to make change."

“The old guard – people, say, my age – would say, 'I'm going to go out and make a bucket of money and then I'm going to give it away when I'm 50 or 60.' The younger generation say, 'I don't want to wait till I'm 50. I want to do this now.' It's combining both things right from the start.”

Further on Pamela adds:

And why the term "social entrepreneurship" should be abandoned: “I can't stand the term 'social entrepreneurship.’ It served its purpose in building a sense of community. But community should not shut out others, and that's the danger here. Not everyone is an entrepreneur – most people aren't – and that's okay." Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Wow. Words should not shut out others. That's kind of why we dropped the word "postmodern" a decade ago, and "emerging church" a few years later. And its why many people are probably going to dump the "missional" word this year if they haven't already. Even the term "missional entrepreneur" is starting to get long in the tooth. Oh well.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • katja says:

    but what words could you still use then if they shut not shut out others?

  • katja says:

    … should not shut … 🙂

  • steve says:

    names. in the Bible it starts with Genesis 2, humans are invited to name, to use words to describe what they see.
    and so humans name what they see. but wait – the word “elephant” shuts out a mouse, the word “dove” shuts out a “hawk.” do we drop the words? seek the generic “animal.”
    but wait. that exludes plants.
    was is wrong to name – in Genesis? in recent church history? wrong to seek to describe a cultural shift? a new way of being church? an outward posture?
    or might naming invite the elephant/postmodern/modern/social entreprenuer to be comfortable in their skin?
    be a way of creating dialogue, extending the diversity that is God’s Kingdom dream?

  • maggi dawn says:

    i don’t know that shutting out others is the reason for dropping names like Emerging/missional etc: seems to me it’s more that they lose their meaning or get hijacked into meaning something they didn’t mean before. S T Coleridge was big on inventing new words, but his view was this: if there is already a perfectly good word that describes what you want to say, then use it, even if it means reinvesting it with meaning. But if you’re trying to say something that doesn’t have a word, then invent a new one or construct a phrase to do the job. The issue, for him, was not to find something that included everything, but to get a precision of description.
    Coleridge took ‘bibliolatry’ (the worship of the BIble instead of God) from another language and anglicised it for the first time. He also invented the phrase ‘the willing suspension of disbelief”. I wonder what really good word he would reappropriate or invent for what you want to say?

  • Heather says:

    I’m pretty cynical about dropping names – it always feels like an attempt to prove how cutting edge a person is when they have “moved on” – and it strikes me as a trick postmodernity plays on us, by robbing us of the language we can use to define/understand something outside of ourselves and our own experience, so we are eventually confined to our own world.
    The rational of not excluding others is extraordinary to me – diversity is not something to be glossed over, as Steve expresses above. Perhaps if people are concerned that terms they are using exclude others, they should reevaluate the messages that are being sent out alongside the actual word, i.e. is there a message about being in/out, is there status attached to one particular way of being, be it ‘entrepreneur’, ‘missional’ or ’emerging’. It strikes me we should focus on making sure there aren’t any power games going on, rather than declaring words to be “so last year”.
    I agree with Maggie that words have their meaning eroded over time and over-use, and there is something creative and celebrating of diversity in our ability to reimagine meanings and appropriate words from other contexts to enable us to describe our world.
    Let’s not hide behind the postmodern mirage and instead get stuck in with being creative.

  • Andrew says:

    nice to see some good balanced, non-knee jerk reactions. thanks
    i was reading a speech from the Edinburgh events a few months ago regarding Dr. Cho of the worlds largest church and his decision to drop the “baptism in the spirit” language for the sake of unity in the churches.
    in the footnotes
    Dr. William Menzies, who is a theologian of the U.S. Assemblies of God, has often asked Rev. Yonggi Cho,
    who likes to use the term, “the fullness of the Holy Spirit,” to use the term, “the baptism in the Holy Spirit”
    instead in public because the former is not the terminology of the Assemblies of God. However, Rev. Cho has
    thus far refused his request for the sake of the unity of the churches. Jack Hayford who is a pastor of the U.S.
    Four Square Church suggested at the Lausanne Conference in Manila in 1989 to use the “group of the Fullness
    in the Holy Spirit” instead of the “charismatic” or the “Pentecostal” (Russell Spittler, “Perspectives on the
    Pentecostalism,” in Harold Smith, Pentecostals from the Inside Out (Colorado: Scripture Press, 1990). As long
    as the theological debate on the baptism in the Holy Spirit is still going on, we had better use the term “the
    fullness in the Holy Spirit” on the pastoral dimension to narrow the distance between denominations, and to be
    united as one in Christ.

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