The global age is the era of the social entrepreneur. Their innovative projects are the change agents for addressing burning issues, such as poverty, education, environment, or inequality. In fact, people all over the world are moving towards building sustainable businesses with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.
It is also the era of global nomads and expats: as InterNations members know all too well, people leave their home countries and seek opportunities and adventures elsewhere. Those new types of global citizens often dream about achieving new peaks, creating their own thing, taking control of their lives and passions, and generally having a greater impact on the world.
Well, guess what — these two trends walk hand-in-hand!
I’ve gathered ten main characteristics of expats that make them the perfect candidates to become social entrepreneurs and change the world for the better.
– Creative problem-solving: The ability to solve problems empowers you, but being able to solve them creatively gives you an edge — making you perfect for whatever you take on. Expats learn to be very resourceful and persistent to adjust to their new host country; those exact characteristics are the driving force of social entrepreneurship.
– Curiosity: “Curiosity killed the cat,” the saying goes, but do you know what comes after? “Satisfaction brought it back.” Curiosity is what drives us to try new things, discover new possibilities, and come up with those creative solutions. Being an expat makes you inherently curious — look at all the new things you’re exploring! The same curiosity drives you to explore social problems and sparks your passion to fix them.
– Flexibility: Reworking your entire life to become an expat definitely took some flexibility. After all, entrepreneurship is a constant sine-graph of ups and downs, especially for entrepreneurs working on socially responsible projects. That flexibility of yours will come in handy.
– Rapid learning: Adjusting to a new area and culture, learning how to interact with “locals”, how to do your grocery shopping, how the new currency works… these are all invaluable skills for life, but they are even more important for creating your own socially innovative project. When looking at a social issue, expats have a fresh approach that can lead them to finding innovative solutions no one else has considered!
– Pursuit of meaning: The latest studies show that the young generation of “millennials” seeks more meaning and passion, rather than only material comfort. This notion is magnified for expats, whose work is nothing like a nine-to-five job that we forget about once we get back home at night. It shapes your life, where you live and who you share your existence with.
Many expat chose to leave their comfort zone because they want to do “something that really matters”, something they care about and that will contribute to others’ well-being — they move abroad, take risks, and look to have an impact on the world. Any better solution than actually creating the project you really care about and fixing a social problem?
– Seeking freedom: People move abroad to seek freedom and explore the world. There are many forms of social entrepreneurship — and instead of living where your expat job “needs” you, you can indeed choose where to live and work.
– Financial opportunity: Social entrepreneurship is still a business after all, so it is a unique opportunity to do well while doing good. Yes, there are some risks associated with an entrepreneurial journey, but it could also allow you to pursue your passions of changing the world and become a scalable business.
– Lack of “conventional wisdom”: Many people have a defined idea of success; they call it “conventional wisdom” or “common sense”, and most value it as the ultimate truth. Yet, for expats who move away from their familiar natural environment and immerse themselves in so many new things, this limiting belief doesn’t exist anymore. They are now free to take on the world, conquer new peaks, and make a difference.
– People skills: Humanity thrives on connection, and each of us wants to be a part of a group, to belong. Expat life immediately requires you to build new networks, forge new friendships, and meet new people. Like any other entrepreneurial journey, at the end it comes down to people; this is especially true when you join forces to create a social project.
– Open-mindedness: The decision to become an expat, as scary as it is, probably isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s some optimism, some excitement — something new and unique to be found! Achieving the greater things in life is all about harnessing that optimism and letting it drive you forward, perhaps even solve a social problem and thrive overseas.
Rita Golstein-Galperin is a multicultural expat in Paris. On top of her love for exploring the world, learning new things and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, she is also an author, entrepreneur, speaker and career makeover strategist for expat women.
(Image credit: iStockphoto)