AMA: Solve Our Biggest World Problems AND Make a Profit: Creating and Marketing PROFITABLE Offerings that Address Hunger, Poverty, War, Climate Change…

Feb 27, 2018

Ask me anything about how to profitably turn hunger and poverty into abundance, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance—NOT through guilt and shame, not even only through corporate giving—but by creating and marketing stuff people WANT to buy. Social entrepreneurship—using business to fix these sorts of problems—is where green business was 20 years ago. It's still at the ground floor and poised to take off as customers start to demand it. Get going with it before it becomes a have-to. Not only do you get the early-mover advantage, you also get to do profitable work that makes you feel happy and proud. And the good news is in most cases, you can do this easily. Often, you can even get going just by thinking differently about your existing products and services.

My name is Shel Horowitz, and I've been in both the marketing and activist worlds for decades. As the primary author of Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World and international speaker/TEDx Talker. I've been consulting, writing, and speaking on social entrepreneurship since the 1980s. I'll be your guide on this exciting journey.

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What are the key traits of a social entrepreneur? How do you relate yourself to those traits?
Feb 27, 6:14PM EST0

It's the same list as I answered when someone asked about the key raits of an activist (because a social enrepreneur is an activist)—but I'd add one more: an understanding of what makes a profitable product, service, or business. Here's the rest again:

  • Seeing both the small pieces and the big picture
  • Media, writing, and speaking skills
  • Refusing to accept that victory is impossible—yet having the long view and knowing that progress is often slow
  • Finding the common ground with people who disagree with me, and inching them toward more progressive positions.
Mar 4, 12:04PM EST0

What are the best ways to impart social responsibility thoughts to the common man?

Feb 27, 4:45PM EST0

It should be part of school curriculum starting in elementary school. It should be burned into what stories the media chooses to cover. It should be spread by all of us who beleive in it, on all the platforms we have access to. When the common man (or common woman, or common person who doesn't identify with a gender) sees it all around them, that changes how people thnk and act and respond.

Mar 4, 12:06PM EST0
What kind of research do you do before starting a project? Who are your team members?
Feb 27, 4:02PM EST0

That's very individualized. I am a solopreneur with no staff, but I have a large network of experts I can call on for everything from trash reduction to deep green retrofits. Some projects need tons of research, others need common sense.

Mar 4, 12:08PM EST0
What is your view of humanity? Do you think it will help solve world’s problems?
Feb 27, 3:57PM EST0

While there are obviously some people who are only out for themselves, I  think they're a tiny minority—even if they are overrepresented in the halls of power. I still believe that most people are not only basically good, but they want to do the right thing. You want to make a difference, leave a positive legacy. But people ahve to feel that their actions actually do make a difference. that's why in my talks, I bring out examples of ordinary people who've changed the world. Like a seamsress, Rosa Parks, or a shipyard electrician, Lech Walesa.

Mar 4, 11:59AM EST0
How are you raising awareness on these issues?
Feb 27, 11:20AM EST0

Speaking, writing, getting interviewed, doing events like this, talking 1-to-1, networking…every way I can. Please see

Mar 4, 12:01PM EST0

Thank you all so much for your questions both ahead of time and during the chat. I appreciate all of you for participating. Our hour has come to a close.

Feb 27, 11:01AM EST0
What is the main reason behind the world problems not being solved yet? What is stopping or hindering the process of saving the world?
Feb 27, 10:56AM EST0

We have the technology. We lack the will. I think the ways we find the will are:

  1. Showing the profit potential in solving these problems (which is why I do the work I do in business)
  2. Organizing grassroots mass-movements for social change 
  3. Demonstrating that these initiatives actually work, and that ordinary people can make them happen

Just look at the amazing movement the kids in Parkland, Florida are creating after the terrible shooting at their school. Here in the US, we have not found the political will even to ban assault weapons. These kids will help us find it.

Feb 27, 11:00AM EST0

Eight minutes remaining. Squeeze in those last few questions and I'll try to get to them.

Feb 27, 10:52AM EST0
Is what you are proposing "too good to be true"? What do you have to say to the skeptics?
Feb 27, 10:39AM EST0

Skeptics have poo-pooed every major advance, probably going back to harnessing fire and inventing the wheel. You can't let nay-sayers run your life or sabotage your dreams. Let's look at some facts:

  • The US has cut its use of industrial energy by about 2/3 over the past 40 years. Meanwhile, Europe's most civilized countries use about half as much energy per capita as we do. So we've made enormous progress and can continue to make much more.
  • Ireland/Northern Ireland and South Africa prove that we can make peace and retool a whole society even in the most conflicted places. Surely we can do it elsewhere.
  • Many of the world's poorest countries have made significant progress on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals, covering things like hunger and poverty, education, health care, etc. So we continue to move forward. Slower than I like, but much faster than at any other time in history, starting in the second half of the 20th century and continuing now.
Last edited @ Feb 27, 10:54AM EST.
Feb 27, 10:46AM EST0
What can an average citizen do to help?
Feb 27, 10:27AM EST0

Start by supporting social entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Then, think about how you might build social entrepreneurship into your own career. You may find the two assessment tools at and helpful. And completing either or both entitles you to a freebie consultation with me.

Feb 27, 10:33AM EST0
People celebrate when a corporate mogul ditches the big bucks and goes to work for a not-for-profit, but has the opposite occurred too?
Feb 27, 7:40AM EST0

When corporate people start doing good in the world? We have a long history of celebrating those folks: from Andrew Carnegie (who funded the construction of so many small-own libraries) and John D. Rockefeller (who endowed universities and research institutions), to present-day heroes like Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

Feb 27, 8:21AM EST0

Or did you mean are there people who left the nonprofit world and went into corporate? Yes, though I can't name any examples at the moment. I know some of my career services clients have done this.

Feb 27, 10:27AM EST0
What could government or society do to encourage more social entrepreneurship?
Feb 27, 5:53AM EST0

The government could do a lot—for example:

  • Positive tax consequences
  • Preferential consideration for government contracts
  • Publicizing the work social entrepreneurs are doing: to other entrepreneurs, to the media, and to the general public
  • Incorporating social entrepreneurship innovations developed in the private sector into their own operations
Last edited @ Feb 27, 8:11AM EST.
Feb 27, 6:17AM EST0

I missed the "or society" part of your question. Society can show it values social entrepreneurship by doing business with social entrepreneurs when that alternative exists and is competitive, and by creating a climate that values social entrepreneurship across all demographics, regions, etc.

Feb 27, 10:03AM EST0
Who do you believe is the “Steve Jobs” of social entrepreneurship?
Feb 27, 4:00AM EST0

Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who not only was an early and deep thinker about approaching these issues systemically, but proved that a consultancy on deep sustainability could be profitable and successful. I profile him in my latest book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World

Feb 27, 6:20AM EST0
What do you think makes some people take action and others to just cogitate?
Feb 26, 8:50PM EST0

People are more likely to take action when they think they will have impact. If they get sunk in "there's nothing we can do," most of them won't do anything. But if they feel their actions make a difference, they WILL take action. So let's remember some of the ordinary people who changed the world for good: A seamstress, Rosa Parks, took the Civil Rights movement to a new height. An electrician in a shipyard, Lech Walesa, led the movement to throw the Soviets out of Poland. And just in the past weeks, a group of traumatized high school kids have finally changed the conversation about assault rifles. These are just three of thousands of cases where ordinary people DID make a difference. We need to keep telling these stories and inspiring others to action.

Feb 27, 6:48AM EST0
What are the things that keep potential social entrepreneurs from succeeding to their full potential?
Feb 26, 8:41PM EST0

Too few hours in the day, too much daily minutia, too little capital…the same things that any entrepreneur has to overcome. Plus the skepticism and sometimes hostility of a culture that doesn't want to be shaken up, that would prefer to do things "the way we've always done it," without realizing that even the "always" way is the result of many changes over time—or that simply sends out choking messages that change is "impossible." We have to remember that change is not only possible but certain. So let's direct that change toward the kind of impact we WANT to make... 

Last edited @ Feb 27, 8:09AM EST.
Feb 27, 6:52AM EST0
For someone with such a long career you must have made some mistakes. If you could go back, what is it that you would do differently?
Feb 26, 9:21AM EST0

I've made tons of mistakes! I could be answering this question for an hour. Here are a few:

  • I wish I'd started thinking this big much earlier. I was 57 when I figured out what I really wanted to do when I grew up. If I've accomplished so much in the past four years, how much more could I have done if I'd started 10 or 20 years earlier. But I wasn't ready.
  • Finding clients would be easier if I could figure out exactly which part of which sector was going to be my wheelhouse. Being a multispecialist across many industries has challenges.
  • I should have started working on my own internal barriers to success years before I did.
  • If I had been aggressive in seeking advertisers for my very popular mass-market sites, I could have created a self-funding mechanism that would allow me to speak unpaid at more conferences, hire some help, etc.
Last edited @ Feb 27, 8:08AM EST.
Feb 27, 7:02AM EST0
What are the most interesting and most challenging parts of your job?
Feb 26, 4:51AM EST0

I love it when I get to brainstorm opportunities and solutions for my clients—ways that they can turn their existing capabilities into something that does clear good for the world and its inhabitants. I also love writing and speaking. All three of these activities challenge me to sharpen my thinking, expand my and my clients' possibilities, and share an empowering message with others.

Last edited @ Feb 27, 8:07AM EST.
Feb 27, 8:05AM EST0
What are the most important qualities a person has to have in order to become an activist?
Feb 24, 2:27AM EST0

It's a long list that's going to be different for every person. For me personally, some of the things that keep me going are:

  • Seeing both the small pieces and the big picture
  • Media, writing, and speaking skills
  • Refusing to accept that victory is impossible—yet having the long view and knowing that progress is often slow
  • Finding the common ground with people who disagree with me, and inching them toward more progressive positions.
Feb 25, 7:38PM EST0
What was the most important thing you’ve done in your career?
Feb 23, 3:58PM EST0

So far, starting the movement that saved a mountain in my neighborhood. I described this in detail in an earlier question; please scroll through once the answers go live.

Feb 25, 7:35PM EST0
Though it is obvious that these are issues worthy attention, what was the actual trigger that made you start this project?
Feb 23, 3:20PM EST0

Looking back at the Save the Mountain campaign some years earlier, I realized I had harnessed everything I knew about both marketing and organizing. And I started looking at how to do more of that in my business—starting with shifting my focus toward working with green businesses, creating the "Making Green Sexy" talk, and writing Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green. A session with my business coach, Oshana Himot, where I finally internalized the need to think much bigger had me start looking at what major problems were out there where my work could really have an impact.. 

Last edited @ Feb 25, 7:44PM EST.
Feb 25, 7:34PM EST0
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