An excerpt from

Be The Change: Social Enterprise Made Simple

Robert Ashton

Being successful

Everybody wants to be more successful. But not everybody describes success using the same words. I describe myself as a social entrepreneur because for me, making the world a better place is as important as making a living. You probably agree, or you'd not have picked up this book.

But you might also say that's OK for me because I've earned enough over the years to no longer need to put earning at the top of my ‘to do’ list. That's true, but if I look back over my life, helping others has given me more satisfaction than being nasty because I want to make money.

Maslow, in his well-known hierarchy of needs, pointed out that if you are desperate for food and shelter, you're not likely you give much thought to the needs of others. But once you’ve got the basics covered, you certainly will become aware of the impact of your actions.

So even if you've not yet started a social enterprise, you will already have, but may not have noticed, many of the attributes of a social entrepreneur. No commercial transaction is sustainable unless all participants benefit in some way. The simple fact is, that the more you do business in a way that benefits others, the more business you will do, and the more you will benefit too.

Like autism, social entrepreneurship sits on a spectrum. It’s not a case or you are or you’re not. It’s a case of where you find yourself on the social entrepreneurship spectrum.

Barry Allard worked in the housing department at Norwich City Council. He started a project that helped homeless people gain independence. After six years, with the Council’s approval, he spun the venture out as a community interest company called LEAP which he now leads.

So having said all that, here's your first checklist. It's to help you build your confidence for the giant leap you feel compelled to take. It need not be very big, not for now anyway. It needn’t be a leap into the unknown, but more a step into your future. But first, you need faith, so, here goes.

10 reasons why now is the right time for you

1. Because it's you. We're all too eager to reckon others will make a better job of things than ourselves. That's just not true. Your social venture, however small will, I hope, build on personal experience and do things you understand.

2. Because you got angry. You've reached the point where you can no longer stand by and let things continue. Your anger focused and tempered with pragmatic realism, will carry you through the journey ahead.

3. The world is changing and once you start digging, you'll find people more receptive to doing things differently than perhaps ever before. There's now widespread acceptance that more of the same is not the answer.

4. A penny has dropped. You've seen your opportunity and need to act fast before that window of opportunity closes. Scrambling through windows of opportunity, often accidentally left open, is the one thing social entrepreneurs have in common with burglars!

5. You're not really ready. Yes, this is a very good reason for starting now. If you wait until you feel you're really ready and prepared, you'll be less likely to listen and liable to make dangerous assumptions.

6. Personal change is inevitable, so you might as well do what you want, rather than simply get another job like the one you have, but probably don't like. If you feel fate has dealt you a bad hand, dump the cards and seize the opportunity to do what your gut tells you in yours to do.

7. You've been told it's impossible. I delight in proving people wrong by doing what they say can't be done. The best time to step forward, is when others give up and go home.

8. Your mum, partner or kids will be proud of you. Don't overlook that basic human need to be liked and ideally respected. Do this because it will give your reputation a boost with those whose opinions matter most to you.

9. You've seen it working somewhere else. There's nothing wrong with flattery by imitation. I'm constantly amazed that people don't more readily seek to copy what works elsewhere, on your doorstep where you have a connection with the need. Clearly don't infringe copyrights, but instead introduce those you want to emulate to the very healthy phrase 'copyleft.'

10. You want to be remembered. The older you get, the more urgent this becomes. You want people to remember you as someone who saw, acted and changed the world in some ways. Good social entrepreneurs are never forgotten as the projects that start live on when they're gone.

I mentioned Copyleft, as opposed to Copyright. Believe it or not, copyleft is a recognised term in the intellectual property world. It can be roughly translated to mean, 'you're free to do what I do and indeed, I'll help you if I can. Just be sure to give me credit for having started this, rather than take all the credit yourself!' Google and check it out.