The Difference We Can Make

Oct 25 2010 Published by under MBA, Social Enterprise

It’s been too long since I’ve last written.

I don’t ever like writing a sentence like that for a couple reasons: First, it’s disappointing to admit that I haven’t been able to attend to this open-ended form of discourse that I enjoy so much. Second, what does “too long” really mean? Should I have neglected other important responsibilities in order to participate here? Am I saying that the opportunity to write has passed by?


I have, however, missed that sort of mental afterglow that I find myself in after having a rewarding experience or intriguing thought. The memory, and the motivation to write it down are still there, but I find that some of the color that would have come with the delivery is lost, and I miss that.

I’d miss not writing it down at all even more.


The opportunity to make a difference is available to almost everybody. It’s not there at just any time, but for us in these lands of freedom and prosperity, it shows up regularly and often, and it does so in all sorts of ways. Let me explain what I mean. A day ago, a young man come up to me looking rather the worse for wear, and he asked me for some money to take a bus home after being mugged. I bought myself a train ticket, and I bought him a bus ticket. I got on the train, and he walked to the bus. I hope things work out better for him, and I’m glad I had that opportunity to help.

Sometimes the scope of the opportunity is far greater and arguably more significant.

I’m a member of the board for the Social Venture Competition (SVC) at BYU, and a little more than a week ago I met with the competition director to discuss a presentation I would be making in his place at BYU’s Business Plan Competition (BPC) kickoff event. In our discussion of how to fit all of our excitement for the competition into the two minutes of time each presenter was given, I learned more about the success of previous entrants to the SVC.

I learned that one of the previous entrants Bazari, is having great success with an SMS based data service for microfinance companies. They’ve recently signed Grameen Bank as a beta partner. I’m a bit of a mobile data geek, so I got especially excited about that one, but there are others like Ecoscraps who have gone on to reduce landfill emissions by composting the food waste from major companies like Costco and selling it as fertilizer or like Tipping Bucket who have a very effective platform for funding larger developmental projects from donations as small as one dollar. How exciting!

There is so much possibility to do great business and to make a positive impact.

After presenting at the BPC, I had lots of people approach me about the opportunity and what they could do to participate. One conversation with a friend stuck out to me in particular. He mentioned how interested he was in participating, and that he had some ideas, but he wasn’t really sure how to expand on the idea and make it a business plan. I explained to him that the Ballard Center (BYU’s social enterprise arm) and BYU’s business school had support systems and mentoring programs to help him go through that process, and then we kept talking for a while about how much opportunity there was for ideas and development in our world. He asked me about ideas that I had, and he told me about his excitement for being part of innovative business in the Bottom of the Pyramid space. He was even wearing a pair of TOMS shoes, and that took us off on another good tangent about being creative and doing good. The point is that I don’t know if it will be my friend who creates the next great social venture, but I’m seeing that those ideas are all around me, they can come from anywhere, and the opportunity to do good is ripe for all of us.

When I gave the young man a couple dollars of bus money, I made a difference in a small but significant way. Right now I’m also having the opportunity to help support the development of some grand ideas for innovation. It’s like having court-side seats to a playoff game – something special is about to happen, and I’m right in the middle of it.

It’s exciting, and I wanted to share that excitement with you. And, big or small, I encourage you to take the next opportunity to make a difference that comes your way. The difference you make for somebody else will make a difference for you.

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