Quotes from Social Entrepreneurs to Inspire You to Change the World

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

Social entrepreneurs bring innovative new solutions into the world that change it for the better. But being an agent of change means going against the status quo, and that requires a unique combination of idealism, grit, and determination. 

Changing the world is hard work, but we’ve found that it helps to know that you’re not alone. Whether you are starting your own social enterprise, leading positive change from within an existing organization, or simply using social enterprise thinking to mold your career in a more world-positive direction, the wisdom of those who have come before us can offer inspiration and motivation to keep going. 

[Looking for more hands-on support and guidance in leveraging your career for social good? Apply to our social impact + career development program.]

Here are 20 quotes from world-changing social entrepreneurs to inspire you to persevere and keep moving forward in pursuit of a better world:

1. “Here’s my advice: The first step to becoming a changemaker (the only secure job going forward) is to give oneself permission, i.e. to ignore — politely, of course — all those who say ‘Don’t do it’” ― Bill Drayton, social entrepreneurship pioneer & Founder of Ashoka

2. “You must never doubt your ability to achieve anything, overcome anything, and inspire everything, because the truth is, there are no superheroes. There is just us, and too often we are the ones that we keep waiting for.” –Shiza Sahid, Co-Founder of the Malala Fund

3. “Human creativity is unlimited. It is the capacity of humans to make things happen which didn’t happen before. Creativity provides the key to solving our social and economic problems.” – Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank and pioneer of microcredit and microfinance

4. “Though either choice was good, one was truer to myself… Ultimately, I reflected on Geothe’s invocation to ‘make a commitment and the forces of the universe will conspire to make it happen’ and chose the uncharted path.” ― Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder of Acumen

5. “Be greedy for social change, and your life will be endlessly enriched. The only failure lies in not trying, or in giving up.” –Ann Cotton, Welsch entrepreneur and Founder of CAMFED

6. “Some people believe in telling stories. Some believe in doing things about which stories will be told in times to come.” ― Sharad Vivek Sagar, Founder of Dexterity Global

7. “When our grandchildren ask us where we were when the voiceless and the vulnerable in our era needed leaders of compassion and purpose, I hope we can say that we showed up, and that we showed up on time.” – Gary Haugen, Founder of International Justice Mission

8. “When you truly believe in yourself and your potential then any decision you make will be the right one.” –Scott Harrison, Founder of charity: water

9. “The challenging part is in the beginning; its a leap of faith. But I think the most important thing is to just do it. Start.” – Tom Szaky, Founder of TerraCycle

10. “Don’t be afraid to share an idea that gets your heart pumping, no matter how half-baked it may be, no matter how much resistance it meets. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your heart is in the right place, you’ll find that people are not only happy to help, but that inviting someone into your effort to matter allows them to matter, too. Don’t be afraid of being afraid. Fear is the gateway to better. Don’t be afraid to look stupid. Stupidity is bravery in disguise.” – Jordan Kassalow, Founder of VisionSpring

11. “(1) First, give yourself permission to be a contrarian, to flout convention, to follow the unsafe path, to zig when everyone else zags; then (2) take some action to get going. Allow yourself to try; then try.” –Linda Rottenberg, Co-Founder of Endeavor

12. “Rather, ten times, die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.” –Florence Nightingale, social impact pioneer

13. “My fundamental philosophy is one of abundance. There is more than enough love, generosity, hope, talent, money and resources in the world – if only we would all commit to sharing them more equitably.” – Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians

14. “A little bit of good can turn into a whole lot of good when fueled by the commitment of a social entrepreneur.” – Jeff Skoll, Founder and chairman of the Skoll Foundation, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, Participant Media, and the Capricorn Investment Group

15. “Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.” – David Bornstein, Co-Founder of the Solutions Journalism Network & Author of ‘How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

16. “You have to really believe in what you’re doing, be passionate enough about it so that you will put in the hours and hard work that it takes to actually succeed there, and then you’ll be successful.” – Pierre Omidyar, Founder of eBay & the Omidyar Network

17. “Without question, the balance of power on the planet today lies in the hands of business. Corporations rival governments in wealth, influence, and power. Indeed, business all too often pulls the strings of government. Competing institutions-religion, the press, even the military-play subordinate roles in much of the world today. If a values-driven approach to business can begin to redirect this vast power toward more constructive ends than the simple accumulation of wealth, the human race and Planet Earth will have a fighting chance.” ― Ben Cohen, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry’s, Author of ‘Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun

18. “Entrepreneurs have a mind-set that sees the possibilities rather than the problems created by change.” — J Gregory Dees, cofounder of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

19. “It’s exciting to know that you’ve built a team that believes in your vision and trusts in your ability to make it a reality. I’m most proud when I’m with my team and I can see that they are ready for the ride, wherever we are going. In terms of do-overs, I honestly don’t believe in them. Every experience, good or bad, has made me who I am today. I’ve also learned more from my mistakes than I could ever learn from a textbook or article. It’s all about perspective.” – Jessica Matthews, Founder of Uncharted Power

20. “I’m not the typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur — I’m not just trying to start a startup. I was trying to solve a problem, and it was an obsession. I had to figure this out. This needs to exist in the world. We don’t have the luxury of failing — the problem is so critical and so solvable — for the first time in human history we can solve this problem.” – Komal Ahmad, Founder of Copia

For more inspiration, check out our Complete Guide to Growing & Scaling Your Social Enterprise. Looking for more hands-on support and guidance in leveraging your career for social good? Apply to our career growth and social impact Fellowship!