Unlike 10 years ago, I’ve noticed a bias against setting up as a nonprofit among many of our budding social entrepreneurs. But we all know of powerhouse nonprofit organizations that do amazing work. Is nonprofit passé or overlooked? I decided to bring the expertise and experience of members of our community, both faculty and alumni, to bear on that question.
After almost ten years at Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation, I am moving on to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of Tides, a robust platform to drive social change and innovation through grant making, social venture management services, advisory services, and advocacy. When I first arrived at CSI, the construction of “social innovation” hardly existed; the concept had no clear audience and the field was in its infancy. As I look back, there are three key trends that have been pivotal in shaping the field we see today.
When Carl Bass, President and CEO of Autodesk, got up to speak at our Social Innovation Summit last November, he provided a compelling perspective on key trends of our time. Carl was rare for a CEO, he did not talk directly about Autodesk or himself (the all too common company PR pitch) rather he brought the companies learning and expertise as a leader in 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software to bear on the world’s needs and opportunities for change. I’ve shared Bass’s thoughts, and elaborated on each point to highlight the way each trend might apply for social impact.
Thank you for being a part of our community of social innovators committed to building a better world for future generations. Imagination, innovation, and relationships inspire action to face the challenges around us every day. In 2014 we challenge all of you to embrace change.
In Bhutan, the mountains rise so high that monastery lights on remote peaks blend in with the stars above at night. On high altitude passes, misty rains are indistinguishable from clouds drifting past. Boundaries in Bhutan melt into one another, and Mountain Hazelnuts as a company is no exception. MH does not fit comfortably within the confines of social enterprise, government project, or multinational company. Similarly, the people at Mountain Hazelnuts – outliers who don’t fit the mold – are its greatest asset. Bhutan is not an easy place to reach, and those who seek it out tend to hear the beat of a different drum. Blending personal passions into the workplace not only makes them more fulfilled and willing to stay, but also enhances the allure of the company to other high performers looking for an unconventional career.
At a recent World Economic Forum event in San Francisco Klaus Schwab was asked by an audience member what it takes to be a successful leader in today’s complex and fast paced world. He responded with four characteristics that he believes are critical for today’s leaders. I list these characteristics below, and then explore how they line up with the dimensions we at the Center for Social Innovation believe are central to leading for social impact.
Six weeks after returning to Stanford from Kenya, I feel prepared to reflect on everything that I saw and did. The experience I had with Living Goods far exceeded my expectations, both professionally and personally.
In my specific role at Nuru, supporting the development of new local businesses, it is critical that I work hard to understand the people and environment where Nuru serves. I need to know the community and appreciate their needs. This call has been a richly rewarding and richly humbling journey.
An incredible summer in Kenya, both personally and professionally, came to an end on a somber note last week, resulting in pain and anguish. The terrorist attack at Westgate Mall claimed 67 lives, including an old friend, who I spent a lot of time with this summer. This incident overshadows anything else that I could possibly write about - and it is worth trying to understand what it potentially means for us going forward.
Lately there has been a lot of discussion around the letter issued by Guidestar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance to “correct the overhead myth" and redirect attention to indicators that are more accurate measures of nonprofit effectiveness. Dan Pallota’s challenge to let nonprofits pay more competitively for talent and advertise aggressively to build market share has struck a chord, validating the notion that nonprofits can move beyond a culture of self-deprivation in order to do better work.