Special Skills /speSHəl skillz/ – Compound Noun: Skills, abilities, gifts, and/or knowledge in a particular area. Competence or proficiency in a field of operation.

Special Skills… the second of seven key pillars in our Seven Pillar Methodology for Social Entrepreneurship [click for main teacher page]. In a nutshell, the pillars are: vision, special skills, non-duplication, partnership, credit sharing, feedback and staying power.

Your expertise, proficiencies and gifts add up to “special skills.” There are many ways to bring about a vision, and you will succeed best if you bring your special skills to bear. My skills will be different from yours, because everyone is unique.

Our mascot has the special skill of "watching" (she's a watch dog), and the student who created this representation of the seven pillars demonstrated great skill as well.

Blondie’s skill is watching… watch dog! Also, look at the skill in this student art!

When asked “What are your special skills, and how can they be useful?” our students in India had a hard time identifying any skills at first, but within a few minutes they realized that they had many special skills their teachers did not possess, and that they each possessed skills that others in the room did not. Some spoke Urdu, some Hindi, and some spoke other languages. Some could sew, others could drive a taxi, and so on.

Three Examples from Social Entrepreneurship
Here are three examples of how social entrepreneurs put their special skills to use, making a positive difference. Educators can highlight one or all of these, or choose an alternative from our  spreadsheet [click here]

  1. Jack McConnell, a medical doctor, retired and moved to Florida where he saw folks without access to medical care. He gathered retired doctors and nurses to help, founding Volunteers in Medicine. The result is that 100,000 people each year receive healthcare who otherwise would not.
  2. Rosanne Haggerty put her background in architecture to work, when tackling long term homelessness first in New York – housing 87% of those who were chronically homeless in Times Square – and then took the effort nationwide.
  3. Will Allen dreamed that everyone in America should have access to healthy food – and he drew on his skills farming as a young child to create Growing Power. Now, his urban farm brings fresh food to an urban “food desert.”

Other Local Examples 
You don’t have to work in a nonprofit.  You might have a small business, or work in a large company.  There are many ways you can make a ripple. And even if your special skills are rare, unusual, or really specific, you can put them to use in making a positive change. Consider these two examples of how Elfenworks’ neighbors put their special skills to work for good causes, domestically in the USA and internationally, as far away as India:

  1. Guitar maker John F. Mello wanted to help with hunger in America. So, he  came up with a creative solution, producing a CD featuring guitarists playing his guitars, and directing proceeds from the sales of this CD to benefit local food banks. We highlighted John Mello as a “ripple maker” – you can read more here.
  2. Burlingame tailor Adam Arpaci has special skills that took a lifetime to learn and perfect.  He was happy to lend those skills to others. They’ve been captured on film, and will be part of an educational project to help widows in India. You can watch him in this short YouTube presentation, below:

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.