Pillar 1 - Vision

Vi·sionˈ/viZHən/ – Noun: Faculty of perception; forming a picture in the mind about the past or potential nature of things.

Vision, the ability to see something clearly, is the first of seven key pillars in our Seven Pillar Methodology for Social Entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, the pillars are: vision, special skills, nonduplication,partnership, credit sharing, feedback and staying power.

Vision can refer to a deep understanding of the flaws of a current situation, a recognition of a shadow of an undesired event on the horizon, or the possibility of a better tomorrow. Lack of vision – especially in our leaders – is dangerous, even deadly. We all can see many things that could use improvement, in our world. By vision, we don't just mean identifying what's wrong, but also being able to see where we fit, exactly, into the solution.   Although there are common themes – house the homeless, feed the hungry, free the captive, help the "widows and orphans" of the world, heal the earth, strengthen community – people have wide ranging visions on how to help.  You can also have a vision for a short-term project, such as getting done with high school, or graduating college. Education is critical, to having vision.  Imagine trying to read this page, if you didn't know how to read!  Learning to read – like learning about any subject – forever changes the way you see the world. And once something is seen, it cannot be unseen.


Here are three examples of how social entrepreneurs came to have a vision for change, and then what they did about it. You may highlight one or all of these, or choose an alternative from our spreadsheet [PDF]:

  • Robert Egger – a nightclub owner who had a heart for folks who were hungry – was handing out sandwiches when it struck him, "I could do this forever or I could teach these folks and get them out of this existence." He founded DC Central Kitchen in Washington, DC, a nonprofit organization that now prepares 10,000 meals a day, with 90% of graduates finding full-time jobs within 3 months.
  • Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist, came back from overseas where he had been working, and noticed that violence on our streets behaved a lot like the contagious diseases he'd been fighting. The more times one witnesses violence, for example, the more likely a person is to "catch" it. "If violence can be transmitted," the thought, "perhaps it can be cured." He founded Cure Violence, in Chicago. Cure Violence has effectively reduced shootings and killing by 41-73%, in urban neighborhoods around the country and now, internationally as well.
  • Dr. Brenda Eheart was a social worker by training, with a heart for the most vulnerable. One day, she was watching the foster care system fail a child. The child was being handed back to the courts, and his future was being discussed right in front of him, as if he weren't there at all. She knew that kids in foster care are less likely to finish school, and are at risk for other unfortunate outcomes. She noticed that this child had the same birthday as her own child, and vowed to do better. She created Generations of Hope – an intergenerational village on a closed military base, where foster children and senior citizens are necessary and beloved parts of a healthy community. Parents agree to adopt three or four kids who'd have a slim chance elsewhere, and the organization has a spectacularly high 89% permanency rate.

About these Pages

Students, educators, nonprofit leaders... no matter where you are in your journey, The Elfenworks Foundation wants to help you to be successful with making a lasting, positive change.  Educators, we hope this subpage helps you as you equip your students with this effective "life tool." It's useful in many realms beyond social entrepreneurship. See the book, entitled Intelligence & Compassion in Action; The Seven Pillars for Social Entrepreneurs for additional factors that influence staying power, and for teachable questions. Also, for more on  "The Seven Pillars of Social Entrepreneurship"  (this page is a subpage) then please visit the main subject page.