Passion was a key topic of conversation at the annual bootcamp of the Harvard Seed Fellows Program, for social entrepreneurs. Forty fellows and their coaches gathered for two weeks to learn about business models, financial management, best nonprofit practices, design thinking and in the case of the workshop I led, communication design.
We covered linguistics, framing, messaging, character and identity and communication strategy in five fast hours, as these principles apply to the diverse issues to which they are dedicating their lives — in education, clean water, children’s education and creativity, aid for migrant children, healthy food, insurance for people in poverty, recycling and climate change. The same issues, we all noted that face people and their governments everywhere.
We had many interesting conversations as we worked through the day, but the most heated (appropriately) was whether passion is a distinguishing characteristic in helping define the worthiness of a social enterprise to funders. Their point was that in China, where pressure to conform to the ideals of conformity and financial return above social value is so great, their passion is what sets them apart. My point was that in any social enterprise, passion is a requirement — the cost of entry — but not an asset that makes any of us unique.
In the end, we agreed that we agreed. Passion should permeate everything. It is the contagion that excites and infects others to participate in solving the challenges that they have identified. The last slide we discussed was the famous quote that defines the real point of brilliant communication, the ability to move people to not only hear ideas, but to act in support of them.
“When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Phillip.’”
It is both exciting and encouraging to meet these passionate and capable social entrepreneurs in China, who will enlist their own armies to solve the social issues that affect us all.