Top Ten Social Entrepreneurs of All Time

Looking for inspiration that you can make a difference, make money, make meaning? That is what social entrepreneurs do.  Here are my picks for the 10 Best Social Entrepreneurs of all time.  Hope they inspire you too.

1. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Founding Father, Inventor, Publisher, Statesman

Benjamin Frankline

One of our country’s most influential founders, this prodigious man never patented his inventions – including printing techniques, bifocal lens, lightning rods and the Franklin stove.  He believed “as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours.” But Franklin’s social invention -“paying forward” – is probably his greatest contribution of all. It not only endures, the concept seems more influential than ever.

2. CLARA BARTON, American Red Cross Founder, nurse, educator, first female federal employee (patent office clerk)

A shy child with a calling to help others, the teacher cum civil war nurse developed into a very determined woman, activist and advocate – for the injured and lost, women’s rights and the need for a US version of the International Red Cross.   Ultimately Barton convinced the President and Congress to grant a unique charter that endures and has woven the volunteer disaster relief and aid society into our American fabric – thereby saving society hundreds of millions of dollars a year too.

3. KLAUS SCHWAB, Founder of the World Economic Forum & Schwab Foundation For Social Entrepreneurship, Professor, Connector Extraordinaire,

Klaus Schwab

This German engineer and economist created the World Economic Forum as an nonprofit foundation committed to finding solutions to global problems in 1971. He built it into the foremost community of world leaders in business, government, academia and civil society. An invitation to participate in its’ annual Davos Summit represents the epitome of power. In 1998, Schwab and his wife, Hilde launched the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship to promote entrepreneurial solutions at the grassroots level too.

4. PATRICIA ALBJERG GRAHAM, Historian of Education, Author, Education Advocate & Activist

Graham was probably the first American to advocate that a good education for all children is the best route to a better world and work in powerful positions to accomplish this. She served as President of the National Institute of Education, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (and first female Dean at Harvard), President of global education research funder Spencer Foundation, consistently facilitating policies and programs that led to our current deep civic commitment to education reform efforts now.Pat Graham, social entrepreneur

Graham was probably the first American to advocate that a good education for all children is the best route to a better world and work in powerful positions to accomplish this. She served as President of the National Institute of Education, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (and first female Dean at Harvard), President of global education research funder Spencer Foundation, consistently facilitating policies and programs that led to our current deep civic commitment to education reform efforts now.

5-7. BILL & MELINDA GATES, WARREN BUFFET, Billionaire Founders of “The Giving Pledge”Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

As of January 2015, 128 billionaire individuals or couples have committed to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. If they all do so with similar thoughtful effort as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet, bill and melinda gates, this pledge could foster greater change for the better than any other initiative in history. Of course, even billionaires are human too…

8.  Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder (and Giving Pledge Signer)

Facebook's Mark Zucke

Even if social ineptness did push Zuckerberg to launch Facebook, he is still the most successful online social entrepreneur in history – connecting 1.4 billion people around the world through a company whose About Us page emphasizes all the ways it helps.

The Jerusalem Post called this 30 year old the World’s Most Influential Jew too.

Because he is only 30 and seems to have married well – wife Priscilla is a daughter of boat refugees, former teacher and recent medical school grad – we should be hopeful that he can accomplish all the good inherent in his Giving Pledge too. The Zuckerbergs already have donated $120 million to help San Francisco’s public schools.

9. BLAKE MYCOSKIE, Founder of TOMS Shoes and Eyeglasses,

Creator of One for One ® Business Model


It might seem a stretch to put the founder of a business that has sold a mere 35 million shoes and even fewer glasses in the same category as founders of our country and other businesses generating billions of whatever. But, Mycoskie’s One for One® economic model seems to be a new iteration of Franklin’s pay it forward capitalism. And it’s working. For every pair of shoes sold, Toms donates another pair to needy children around the world. For every pair of glasses sold, Toms gives the gift of sight.

A growing number of savvy businesses are imitating this too.

10.  ADAM GRANT, Business Professor, Author, Consultant, Social Justice Advocate

Adam Gross, Photo Source: Forbes

Adam Gross, Photo Source: Forbes

The youngest tenured professor in Wharton’s history uses data and rigorous research techniques to prove that the most successful people in business look to help others.  Consequently, most successful businesses are rushing to work with Grant – including Google and Goldman Sachs.  In the process, Grant has become a champion for equality too, as evidenced by his recent NY Times OpEd co-written with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (author of “Lean In”) explaining how men also benefit when women succeed in the boardroom.

Yes, most definitely. Giving is the secret to getting ahead, along with passion and the ability to collaborate

Yes, most definitely. Giving is the secret to getting ahead – along with collaboration and passion.

Earlier this year, a New York Times Sunday magazine cover story posed the question “Is Giving The Secret To Getting Ahead?” The article – written by Susan Dominus – is based on an interview with Wharton Business School professor and best selling author Adam Grant.

Photo courtesy of NY Times

The article:

Our answer is a resounding “YES!“- particularly when that giving accompanies passion for the work you are doing and the ability to collaborate with others.

Tony Perry of A. Perry Designs who graciously served as host of the party last night for the Philanthropy Awards winners, judges, fans and Make It Better staff, is a perfect example.

Anthony Perry, President, A Perry Designs

Tony’s passion for design and working with people to help them build their dream homes launched his business. Adopting the Northwestern University Settlement House (NUSH) as a philanthropic partner to embed giving back into his marketing campaign to launch their Winnetka Showroom Opening fueled remarkable growth – for A Perry and NUSH, too.

We think of the A Perry Design/NUSH/Make It Better Media relationship as an ideal example of the kind of Virtuous Circle our business likes to utilize.

Therefore, we were particularly delighted that our Philanthropy Awards judges selected NUSH as the winner of the Most Improved Fundraising Philanthropy Award and NUSH credits A Perry’s support for their recent fundraising success.

Representatives of the NUSH preschool, Rowe Elementary School, beneficiary families, board, staff, Tony (back row 4th from the left, peeking over the blong woman in front of him) and Make It Better staff at NUSH yesterday, following the Award presentation.

Good business as well as good philanthropy flows when a leader like Tony prioritizes helping as many as possible – growing a network of good – as part of their core mission.

Thank you Tony.

A Very Successful Male Proves That Men Need Women And Daughters Make Men Better

Wharton Professor and New York Times Sunday Magazine cover boy Adam Grant provides extensive data to prove that men need women and daughters particularly make men better in this article.

It states, “Is it possible that proximity to infant girls prompts greater generosity? Additional studies, in a variety of fields, suggest this is the case — and that it might extend beyond daughters.”  A perfect example of this is philanthropist Bill Gates, whose reluctance for charitable giving made a complete turn after his marriage to Melissa Gates and the birth of his daughter.

This also helps prove that females are the true change agents for the better, and that we were spot-on to target moms with Make It Better Media.

The Most Successful Givers

The most successful givers are those who rate high in concern for others but also in self-interest. They are strategic in their giving, according to Wharton Business School Professor Adam Grant, featured in my last post.

This strikes me as the perfect model! When smart, strategic thinkers invest their resources to maximize potential for themselves and for others, more lives will definitely be made better per dollar spent.

Adam, I’m a fan! And I’m closing this post and as many of my future communications as possible with your favorite line.

Please let me know how I can be helpful to you.

Your Mother’s Fix-It Gene

Wharton Professor Adam Grant has built a fantastic career by being as helpful to others as he can. His work demonstrates that the most successful businesses do this too. According to yesterday’s New York Times magazine cover story, Grant attributes his work and his success to his “mother’s fix-it gene.”

Image courtesy of New York Times magazine

I recommend that you read the article here.

Most mothers have fix-it genes, right? It develops soon after giving birth. We want to create a better world for our children.

My mother not only wanted to fix-it for her kids, other family members and friends, but also for society. That drive led her to great success as an Indiana State Senator and AG Edwards Investment Advisor.

The psychology of a mother’s fix-it gene is deeply embedded in Make It Better Media too. We believe deeply in the power of mamma and built our company to do well as we do good and help moms.

Do you have examples of what your own mother’s fix-it gene has influenced? If so, please share them with me.

Thank you.