When Michael Caslin was delivering newspapers, shoveling snow, and mowing lawns as a boy in Queens, NY, he couldn’t have known that one day he’d be inspiring entrepreneurs to reach for their goals and achieve them. Mike founded the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network (GCSEN) to accelerate social entrepreneurship in higher education through innovative programs and learning technologies. GCSEN will build a global network of faculty, practitioner-academics, students, and practicing social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial philanthropists all connected and supported by a partnership with the Marist School of Management.
Mike recalls from his youth, “We learned in our family to hope for the best, pray, and work out the rest.” Reading the Spirit of Enterprise by George Gilder changed his view on how to do things. It helped him see a whole new horizon where the world of work can combine with life’s passions. Mike believes that entrepreneurs are true heroes. In Joseph Campbell’s book Hero with a Thousand Faces, the heroes depart from the easy and comfortable in search of something bigger than themselves, gain enlightenment from the struggle, then return to teach the lessons that were learned.
GCSEN focuses on working with social entrepreneurs—people who see a need and societal problems and tries to create a business around meeting those needs. A social entrepreneur commits to a triple-bottom-line of economic development (job development, treating people well, and more trade amongst each other), environmental stewardship (any business has to make environmental choices, whether good or bad), and then going beyond the hobby to make it work for the business and the team (profitability).
For Mike, discovering that he wanted to teach social entrepreneurship was a gradual progression: First, he found that he can be an entrepreneur; second, he realized that he can succeed at it; and lastly, he recognized that he could help people help themselves. “I’ve always wanted to help people,” he said, “but I hadn’t realized that business could be a force for change.”
On the path to creating GCSEN, Mike’s journey included building up the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) for 20 years, lecturing at Harvard Business School, Stanford, Duke, Columbia, and Babson College, and reviewing case studies with students. “They loved it,” Mike said. “I had a window on hope, aspiration, and dedication. I could help young people and young-at-heart to help them find their voice and their “why” as an entrepreneur.” Then Babson invited him to be a “pracademic” (practitioner academic) to help students really bring their dreams to life. “I saw that GCSEN could bring a systems approach to this for higher education. We are aiming to make this a global movement for people who are aspiring and practical entrepreneurs, working with academics, investors, and government leaders who believe in them. We’re a home for entrepreneurial heroes. Whether teaching, believing, or supporting, you’re important to the process.”
The world needs more heroes, and the hero lies within. Mike’s advice for those who would like to start a business: “To paraphrase Enya, Believe and you will find a way home.” The power of the entrepreneurial creative innovative spirit is that more needs to be created, in all that we do. Mike believes that we should have an intention to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is bigger than one part—a system that’s based on abundance and prosperity for all.