Six Traits That Separate the Achievers From the Wannabes

Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, a social entrepreneurship funder which has dispensed over $27M to projects such as City Year and Teach for America, says the people who make things happen share certain common traits.

Cheryl DorseyEach year Echoing Green vets about 1000 ideas to come up with 15 projects they want to fund. The trick, Dorsey says, is ferreting out which of those submissions is not just a scalable idea, but has a person behind it with the right stuff to make it happen.

"There's truly magic to doing this work," she said. "You've got to find the right person, with the right idea, who can execute, and who's at the right moment in time for idea to take flight."

To separate the worthy from the wannabes, Echoing Green canvassed the characteristics of more than 500 Echoing Green fellows. They distilled them and put them together into something they call the social entrepreneurship intelligence—with a nod to Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

Running out of time, Dorsey listed six:

  1. Core identity formation and alignment. "These folks," she said, "have reached a level of authenticity in life. They have found purpose and passion. They know what they're on earth to do. They're in the Social Change 'zone.' They have head/heart alignment."
  2. Focused and ability to execute with alacrity. "It's not enough to have an idea. You must be able to prove your model is having an impact and build on it."
  3. Solutions oriented.
  4. Asset based thinking. "Most of us deficit based thinkers," Dorsey said. "But instead of seeing the world as filled with problems, they see opportunities. They see the glass as half full, and execute against all odds."
  5. Resource magnet. They're able to draw money, garner human capital, and attract media attention.
  6. Deep and unshakable commitment to a cause.

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  • Jesse Alred

    Wendy Kopp--like her friends, our nation's corporate leaders--preaches but does not practice accountability when she claims Teach For America and its branches, the KIPP and YES charter schools, have done jack to close the achievement gap.

    Education professors argue whether 40% or 20% of TFA teachers remain in school past the requisite two-year stint, but neither advocates or enemies of TFA have presented ANY evidence of them improving the academic results of significant numbers of working-class, minority students.

    The only argument they have comes from the outstanding perfomance of kids at KIPP and YES, and these students attend charter schools after their families have applied to schools with longer school days, extended school years, and loads of homework.

    Teach For America provides a positive service, and its charter schools provide a top-quality education for kids whose ambitious familees are already committed to education.

    The notion that these folks are the solution not only to school reform but to social reform also must derive from an equal mixture of egotism, careerism, the rich-person's sense of entitlement, stupidity and the desire to please government-hating corporate donors.