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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 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.

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Cheryl Dorsey

Each 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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About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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