Posted in Social Innovation

May 11, 2010

Policy is Not Enough

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David Brooks is making me think again.  This time he is pointing to the limits of policy.  Yes, he’s throwing stones at what is a sacred cow for change makers of all stripes – and I’m glad he is doing it.  As happens too often with Brooks, he gets dangerously close to cultural determinism, but it is by walking that line that he can manage to highlight some very important empirical patterns. Read More

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May 4, 2010

A Two Stage Process

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|Photo by TeresaM3Kids|http://www.flickr.com/photos/teresam525/3530463356/|

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|Photo by Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel|http://www.flickr.com/photos/43147325@N08/4370125469/|

I’m a big fan of Kevin Kelly.  His latest blog post reflects on what he calls “Two Kinds of Generativity” and it has me thinking about the next phase of movement.  Kelly describes the evolutionary process of an innovation.  He speaks of the first stage as one that is “vague, incomplete and open to change.”  This first stage is appealing to the early adapters, “tinkerers, nerds, fans, and hacks who will make it do all kinds of things no one had thought of.” Read More

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April 10, 2010

Building Capacity, Building Change (WE Can Believe In)

Friends — I am asking you to help build my capacity to build our capacity to create the change we seek…. from the grassroots to the grasstops, and every village and hamlet in between. Last week, I  received an invitation to participate in a meeting in a few weeks on the federal government’s nonprofit capacity building efforts — at the White House! Read More

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March 3, 2010

Competing with Copyright

As technology continues to redefine our daily interactions,  it is becoming clear that we need to learn a new form of literacy and quickly. Even more important than literacy though is the need to critically analyze and comprehend the new language which we encounter. An overwhelming call at first, but one that is made easier when we begin to embrace exploration and collaborate with one another as we learn. Here is a brilliant little Ted Talk Lawrence Lessig gave in 2007 regarding copyright and creativity.

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November 23, 2009

What Does It Mean?

Change is everywhere and at an ever increasing speed! In a recent post, Curtis highlights the trends that are shaping our sector and our society as a whole. In this provocative study, LaPiana invites us to become futurist and be attuned to what is unfolding now and what is yet to unfold.  Let’s fathom what some of this may look like…

What does this all mean?

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November 9, 2009

Information Power

In this world where encyclopedias are written by millions on-line, policy change is influenced by citizen lobbyists through internet organizing and micro acts of inspiration and hilarity are seen daily on You Tube, the Tactical Technology Collective has created a video that illustrates this power called “10 Tactics for Turning Information into Activism”. They asked 50 human right activists: “What is info-activism?”

Be inspired by their answers!!!!

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October 13, 2009

Investment Shift

I had dinner with one of my closest friends the other night, he has become extremely successful in the world of finance, but he is not your traditional investment banker.  He works for a relatively small boutique shop that specializes in buying (not selling!) other investment groups.  Now, I’m not one of those nonprofit consultants that think our sector should behave more like the business world – by now we all know where that gets us!  But I do think there are many lessons to be learned, especially from those who are successful in business by carving out their own rules.

When my friend is about to buy a firm their main focus is on the culture of that firm:

  • Is it a culture that successfully unlocks the talent and self-motivation of its people?
  • What is the leadership like and what do they really want?

Read More

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October 8, 2009

Roots Rising . . .

Today’s post is inspired in part by a story I heard recently about a foundation that was paying consultants to work with grassroots community initiatives at a lower rate than it was for them to work with “more formal” organizations.  It is also fueled by last week’s work with some amazing community activists in Holyoke, MA at the Food and Fitness Policy Council and from around New England at this year’s Grassroots Retreat convened by the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) and Toxics Action Center (TAC).  It both blew me away and fired me up to learn about all of the initiatives that are under way from Hartford, CT to Hardwick, VT, Great Barrington, MA to Little Compton, RI, focused on local food and energy production, the preservation of local water rights, smart growth promotion, healthy lifestyles for our children . . .

Many of these efforts are being run with very few resources beyond the passionate people who have other full-time jobs or who in some cases are unemployed and still working as volunteers (this is not to overlook the financial support and wonderful technical assistance offered by the likes of NEGEF and TAC).   Often these change agents are in the work because they cannot not be in it.  This is about their lives, their families, their homes.  And yet, what seems to get lost is that it really isn’t just about their lives and communities, it’s about all of us and wherever we live.  We always live downstream or upwind from someone.  We are all connected. Read More

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August 7, 2009

Community Solutions

Just a month ago, the  President called on foundations, philanthropists, and others in the private sector to partner with the government to find and invest in innovative, high-impact solutions that are found outside the Beltway.  The press release for this new White House initiative, Community Solutions, stated:

“Now more than ever, we need to build cross-sector partnerships to transform our schools, improve the health of Americans, and employ more people in clean energy and other emerging industries.  These community solutions will help build the new foundation for the economy and the nation. “

What say ye? What are the implications of a government that, at least in some sense,  “gets it”?

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July 27, 2009

Foxy Thinking

Many of us are familiar with the concept of the Hedgehog and the Fox originally sited in an essay by British philosopher, Isaiah Berlin where he divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes based on their ways of thinking and being in the world. The hedgehog knows one big thing as compared to the fox who darts from idea to idea.  This concept was most recently brought into strategic planning and nonprofit management circles by Jim Collins through his well read monograph, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors“. There he talks about discovering your “hedgehog” by asking three fundamental questions: What are you most passionate about? What are you best in the world at? And what drives your resource engine? The theory of the case is that your hedgehog, your one big idea, your strategic direction, lies in the answers to these questions. Read More

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July 21, 2009

By the Year 2020 We Will…

That’s in just 11 years, so what is our vision? Things are changing really fast, so how do we take the shift into account. In his TED Talk on the next 5000 days of the web, Kevin Kelly outlines the contours of the world that is emergent, and it is very different than anything we’ve seen before. What is our role, as individuals and communities, organizations and movements – people who want to see a better world – how do we help shape this?

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July 20, 2009

The Birds, the Bees and the Trees

So much is in the ether about “social innovation.” There is a new office in the White House dedicated to the idea as well as a prestigious journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review and multiple books.  The following are only two such examples: Geoff Mulgan’s The Process of Social Innovation 2007 and David Bornstein’s How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas,Updated Edition.

One of the best things that I have read recently is Social Innovation: What It Is; Why It Matters; and How It Can Be Accelerated. In this article the authors define social innovation as “new ideas that work, to meet pressing unmet needs and improve peoples lives”. They introduce us to the stages of innovation from the generation of ideas through prototyping and piloting to scaling up and learning. And they introduce us to the idea of the “bees and trees” i.e. that social change depends on small organizations, individuals and groups who have new ideas and are more mobile, quick and able to cross-pollinate connecting to the trees, which are big organizations like foundations, government and corporations which have the resilience, roots and scale to make things happen.

They posit that it is these alliances that will ensure that new and creative ideas will be translated into new products and services. At IISC we have spent a lifetime steeped in this struggle. We are bees learning constantly, experimenting continually and daunted by the time, effort and cost of turning many of these ideas into real and replicable products and services. While it remains a struggle, it is also our core commitment to “change how change happens” and so it is our dilemma to solve.

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