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The Real Social Entrepreneurs

Thursday December 2010


William Schambra Director, Bradley Center for Philanthrophy, Hudson Institute

In the popular imagination as well as in the academic literature, “social entrepreneurs” are cast as charismatic figures determined to make grand, sweeping, systemic changes to an unjust social order. But, in the view of William Schambra, director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, America has traditionally found its civic vitality in a different, more modest sort of social entrepreneur: the everyday citizen who is roused to immediate and concrete action by the particular problem in front of him. While it’s commonly thought that this sort of entrepreneurship disappeared along with Alexis de Tocqueville’s small-town America, it can, Schambra says, still be found wherever the substantial and expensive systems of social intervention have failed—which is to say, almost everywhere in modern American life. Schambra, a former program officer at the Bradley Foundation, discussed whether and how American foundations should encourage what he views as the “real” social entrepreneur.