In 2005, the PBS series “The New Heroes” profiled 14 bold people throughout the world who were, in spite of tremendous odds, “successfully alleviating poverty and illness, combating unemployment and violence, and bringing education, light, opportunity and freedom to poor and marginalized people around the world.” An affiliated website discussed social entrepreneurs, offered a quiz for visitors to discover what issues and problems might inspire them, invited them to share their own stories, and provided a glimpse of some of the earliest social entrepreneurs and the long-term effects of their efforts.
While the term “social entrepreneur” has become prevalent in recent years, the concept of identifying and solving social problems is not a new one. Throughout the 19th century, forward-thinking individuals recognized societal issues and sought solutions, the impact of which resonates still today.
Some of those early social entrepreneurs include Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed that children teach themselves. This belief fueled Montessori’s desire to reform education and eventually led to the development of the Montessori method of early childhood education.
John Muir was a conservationist, inventor and writer who lobbied against the destruction caused by ranching in the Sierra Nevada. His actions led Congress to create Yosemite, the first national park in the U.S. The founder of The Sierra Club, Muir also collaborated with President Roosevelt to establish the U.S. national park system.