Social Entrepreneurs Eagerly Move Forward

By Marjorie Coeyman, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 1999 | Go to article overview

Social Entrepreneurs Eagerly Move Forward


Marjorie Coeyman, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


There's a group of bright, dynamic, highly motivated workers making their mark in education, touching the lives of thousands of children.

They have no teaching degrees, don't belong to any union, and in some cases, have never graded a paper or attended a faculty meeting. They're the new entrepreneurs, an eager crop of idea-generators, many of them finding their way from the for-profit sector into the once quiet backwaters of education.

Ben Anderson is among their ranks. Fresh out of college, he worked as a management consultant, an opportunity he says he's glad he experienced. "You work with extremely smart people in a fast-paced environment and you learn lots of different things and you're well paid to do it," he says. "But my heart wasn't in the end goal of what I was doing." Eventually he switched to the nonprofit sector. Today he is the director of the magnet program at the Stepping Stone Foundation in Boston, a group that offers economically disadvantaged kids a chance to strengthen academic skills and gain admission to the city's magnet public high schools. But he and four colleagues have another project under way in Boston: They are preparing to launch the Frederick Douglass Charter School, an inner-city, 5-12 school that will offer a rigorous curriculum aimed at preparing students for admission to the country's most prestigious colleges. Starting a new school is a challenge, Mr. Anderson agrees, but in many ways his career helped prepare him. "It was important that I had that experience," he says. "That work trained me, gave me skills I wouldn't have otherwise." Eric Schwartz, cofounder and president of Citizen Schools in Boston, says he sees a rise in what he calls social entrepreneurism. "A lot of people are looking for meaning and are realizing that in the nonprofit field you can be an entrepreneur, have the thrill of building something and dealing with big issues, but still be helping young people and making the community a better place to live," he says. …

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