Intersections and Social Innovation

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment

You can hardly turn a corner around here without bumping into another example of emergence and transformational change! There is a very interesting convergence playing out between the launch of the administration’s new Office of Social Innovation and what is becoming known as the Fourth Sector.

An aspiration articulated by the new Office of Social Innovation is to challenge the long held assumption that social innovation is the purview of the nonprofit sector only and to look for creative solutions in those organizations and collaborative initiatives that transcend the boundaries of the three sectors. It is exactly these new forms that are maturing finally into what is being called the Fourth Sector made up of organizations that are being described as For-Benefit organizations.

These organizations and efforts are characterized not by their tax status but by their mission. They are “a new class of organization driven by a social purpose, they are economically self-sustaining, and they seek to be socially, ethically, and environmentally responsible. For-Benefits represent a new paradigm in organizational design”.

Interestingly as a nonprofit, fee for service, learning organization we at IISC have struggled to articulate our hybrid nature. While I’m not completely certain we fit into the definition of the For-Benefit organization it gives us both language and colleagues to explore this new organizational form and understanding of a new and emerging sector.

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