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Jessie M.

Dryden

Practical Utopias

April 7, 2010

What it Means to be Super


To acquire superhero powers you would have to be born on Krypton, or jump in a vat of nuclear waste or have a (un)fortunate encounter with a radioactive spider. Even by eating a can of spinach, you could gain temporary, super-human strength. But regardless of whether superheroes are chosen or created, they are resigned to their destiny to fight for the greater good and overcome any obstacle that Evil throws at them. And they will. They are superheroes after all. Even though these characters are fictitious they are direct personifications of real heroes, accomplishing superhuman feats on a global level. Except these superheroes function nonviolently and collectively, on very little money, without the fancy spandex attire, mask, and cape. Like Captain America leaping out of a Marvel comic to save the world, these people emerge from even the smallest rural town to courageously attack social problems on a global level through the investment and regeneration of social capital. These superheroes are social entrepreneurs. And as super-entrepreneurs, they use ideas as artillery, resilience and hope as armor. They are obsessive people who have the skill, motivation, energy, and bullheadedness to do whatever is necessary to move them forward: to persuade, inspire, seduce, cajole, enlighten, touch hearts, alleviate fears, shift perceptions, articulate meanings and artfully maneuver them through systems (Bornstein, 2004, p. 92). Although they might not be able to deflect bullets and the powers they wield do not conjure up storms or control time and space; they have sacrificed their lives to save millions of peoplemost of which they will never meet. Even though they have super powers it does not mean they have to use them to save the world. They use their powers because they must. Because they are so restless, they could not possibly imagine slowing down until the job is done. Bornstein (2004) captures this superhuman ambition defining super-entrepreneurs as people with new ideas to address major problems who are relentless in the pursuit of their visions, people who simply will not take no for an answer, who will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they possibly can (p.1). And, when youre superhuman, the job never is quite done. There will always be more saving to do. Becoming Super There are several ways super-entrepreneurs reveal themselves to the rest of the world. And, their methods seem to be incredibly formulaicjust as calculable as each of their ambitious projects, from the onset of the idea to social change on a global level. To identify what is human and what is superhuman, Bornstein (2004) refers to the organization intended to bring them all together as a group

Jessie M. Dryden

Practical Utopias

April 7, 2010

of Super Friends across the globeAshoka. The founder, Bill Drayton, is a Captain Planet of superentrepreneurs. His goal was to find these agents of change across the globe, make them even more super than they already were, and with all powers combined save the world from social erosion. Drayton compiles a group of extraordinary people based on the following superhuman characteristics. First, super-entrepreneurs alter behavioral patterns and perceptions, advancing systemic change and the inclusiveness of marginalized populations through fostering an environment of empathy (Bornstein, 2004). They empower the communities, showing that effective social change can start with cooperation and collaboration. Secondly, they imagine innovative approaches to resolve seemingly insurmountable problems. Bornstein (2004) writes, It takes creative individuals with fixed determination and indomitable will to propel the innovation that society needs to tackle its toughest problems (p. 2-4). And, Ashokas super friends use vision and creativity to move their ideas from the fringes to the mainstream (Bornstein, 2004). Lastly, instead of attacking complex social problems with complex resolutions, social entrepreneurs focus on basic, simple, and feasible methods and have long-term goals:
The most successful entrepreneurs were the ones most determined to achieve a long-term goal that was deeply meaningful to them. Accordingly, they tended to be more systematic in the way they searched for opportunities, anticipated obstacles, monitored results, and planned ahead. They were more concerned with quality and efficiency and more committed to the people they employed and engaged with in business or as partners (Bornstein, 2004, p. 233).

Super-entrepreneurs are people like Veronica Khosa who believe that I can do something. I can help (Bornstein, 2004, p. 186). But, they are not merely satisfied by donating money, or volunteering time. They know they are the agents of changethey know they are called to do something greater. Because, it is something they must do in order to feel any relief. Super-entrepreneurs are awakened by bleak realities and hopelessnessresponding to the call of duty to save the world from self-destruction. They laugh in the faces of doubt and accept their roles in global social movements. It is not a choice for them. It is their destiny.

Wonder Womans Wondering Saves Millions in India


Some people know her as Gloria de Souza, but she is most definitely Wonder Woman in disguiseusing wrists guards to deflect doubt and telepathy to impart wisdom to other humans. She did this through the development of the Environmental Studies approach, an interactive and critical thinking curriculum; and sheer zealous pursuit of its national implementation in India.

Jessie M. Dryden

Practical Utopias

April 7, 2010

All superheroes have their weaknesses. Doubt is one of them. It could easily have become de Souzas kryptonite. She was often told that her ideas were great in theory, But its not for India. The philosophy is good but its totally impractical for us (Bornstein, 2004, p. 18). However, she did not let that stop her. Part of being a real superhero is having the will and courage to continue to fight even when you might lose. And, fortunately for this super-entrepreneur, tenacity and unwavering faith in a practical idea was all she needed to effect change in the educational system in India. She believed, If we can help children grow up learning to think rather than memorize and repeat, learning to problem solve, learning to be creative, learning to be actors rather than acted upon, we can create a generation that will be very different (Bornstein, 2004, p. 18). De Souza did not stop with educating just a few students, but made sure that she used her powers to save millions: *A+lmost a million students were learning with her methods and it was incorporated into the national curriculum (Bornstein, 2004, p.19). And because of her salesmanship and resourcefulness and thick skin and a level of commitment bordering on obsession she was recruited as a Super Friend, to save the world with the rest of Ashokas super-entrepreneurs (Bornstein, 2004, p. 19).

Green Lantern Recovers Mad Green in Brazil


Masquerading as Fbio Rosa, the Green Lantern fights for justice in Palmares, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Using nothing but ingenuity and science, Rosa listened to the needs of farmers and began a cheap irrigation agricultural movement that saved a lot of greenand contributed to enabling and empowering a very poor area of Brazil. Rosa heard the farmers cries about educating their kids and escapting poverty and holding onto their farms and responded with a vengeance and a sense of urgency (Bornstein, 2004, p. 20-21). Rejecting doubt with the scientific method, Rosas low-cost agriculture showed that, contrary to assumptions, it was possible to slow the flood of rural-to-urban migration that severely jeopardized the integrity of the land in Palmares, due to over-production and monopoly wealthier land owners had on irrigation (Bornstein, 2004, p. 27). But being a superhero does not mean that the job can always be done alone. Rosa needed authorization from the state to pursue his vision of cheap irrigation, showing an ability to facilitate government cooperation and network with other related agencies. It is this resourcefulness, imagination, and strength of will that makes Rosas superhuman powers superentrepreneurial. Rosa believed that Bringing electricity to remote rural areas around the globe would not only transform economies, it would transform education and healthcare. It would transform agriculture; and that is exactly what it did, at least while Rosa supervised the project (Bornstein, 2004,

Jessie M. Dryden

Practical Utopias

April 7, 2010

p. 38). Even though his plan did not have the effect and scope that was intended, Rosa believed in his mission enough to not be discouraged. The reason these super-entrepreneurs exist is to compensate for the impotence of government. But, even the most perfectly developed idea can break down in implementation. Rosa attributed this breakdown in Brazil as a lack of motivation and follow-through on behalf of the government: The technicians were trying to make the project work from their offices instead of attacking the problem in person (Bornstein, 2004, p. 32). It was for his persistence that Ashoka invited Rosa to be a Super Friend. Once he faced an obstacle, he conjured up powers of cooperation and collaboration. When confronted by setbacks, he responded by pushing his idea more aggressively, working out any kinks, with social change and community empowerment in sight. Rosa says, If it does not go well, you havent come to the end. You have to do more work. If you havent succeeded, the work goes on until success is achieved (Bornstein, 2004, p. 33).

Black Bolt sends a Master Blow to Officials in India


The most powerful ability of the Black Bolt is his voice. Some say that it is so powerful it can level cities. But when used for common good, there is no way of stopping it from being heard. And, Javed Abidi has given a voice to millions of disabled people in India. If the goal of the super-entrepreneur is to alter perceptions, then Abidi has gone above and beyond achieving this for those with disabilities. Functioning on the understanding that disability strikes many people at many times and is not related to sin or shame, Abidi uses empathy to give his powerful voice to the marginalized. He expresses, I try to look at my own experiences only to learn about this country: how things were and are an, most important, how things should be (Bornstein, 2004, p. 213). But, empathy is not his only power. Abidi is incredibly opportunistic and uses opportunity to further his cause. Bornstein highlights a tale of great heroism experienced on a plane, when Abidi refused to move out of his seat instead of allowing the attendants to carry him to a new seat. Protecting under the Persons With Disabilities Act, Abidi filed suit and persisted with aggressively fighting for disability rights in India and inevitable securing the golden clause which ensured an obligation for business to employ disabled people (p. 225-227). Being a super friend, Abidi has shown his creative capacity for resolving social problems and improving the lives of many disabled people just like him. His disability is a source of power, showing many others that even though you might walk with a limp or be confined to a wheel chair your voice can still be heard.

Jessie M. Dryden

Practical Utopias

April 7, 2010

With All Powers Combined . . .


When governments appear impotent and fail the people, super-entrepreneurs emerge from mediocrity to fulfill their superhuman destiny. When social ills erode humanity and all seems lost, they will fight ceaselessly to restore hope. It is who they were born to beagents of change, purveyors of peace, restlessly and relentlessly saving the world from the social problems that apathy perpetuates. The challenges they face battling Evil on a daily basis will not stop them. Instead of kryptonite, these superentrepreneurs gain strength from problem-solving. They do not see farmers in Poland and disabled persons as mutually exclusive, they enlist disabled people to teach computer courses to rural youth in exchange for villagers building wheelchair ramps and facilitating pleasant, fresh-air experiences (Bornstein, 2004, p. 201). But their powers are not limited to their analytical abilities; these super humans use them to alter how people perceive differencelike Erzsbet Szekeres training her employees to view disabled people as fully capable and starting a movement that created a place for the disabled in society. Bornstein (2004) writes, Changing the system means changing attitudes, and expectations, and behaviors. It means overcoming disbelief, prejudice and fear (p. 46)it means fighting for inclusion, being a voice for the marginalized, selflessly caring for the sick, and realizing that the work is never done. There is always an evil nemesis lurking in the shadows. There are always more people worth saving. Bibliography: Bornstein, D. (2004). How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. New York: Oxford Press