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.
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.
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.
Frustrating. Galling. This is how some of the best social sector leaders I know describe the fact that funding to intermediaries and consultants often dwarfs the support they receive for their work on real issues at the front lines. I’m not talking a small differential – the disparity is large.
The pace of summer sometimes slows to permit more time to dive into a good book and refresh our thinking about issues that matter to us. This year I’ve polled a number of friends and colleagues to share some favorite reads, both newly published and bookshelf favorites. The titles cover a grab bag of topics, all relevant in some way to our mission to create a more just, sustainable and prosperous world.
Over the past five months I’ve worked in Yangon and explored the city center, industrial zones, towns and villages. I’ve spoken with business owners, investors, and business intermediary organizations, government policy and aid agencies, and local and international nonprofits. You might think I’d have a clear sense of what is going on here, where opportunities are, and the path the country should take moving forward. I do have a more complete understanding of Myanmar than when I arrived, but I am also more aware of how many layers there are to any "truth" in this rapidly changing country.
What has happened to the American Dream – the idea that freedoms granted in the U.S. provide opportunities to prosper, succeed, and move up the socioeconomic ladder through hard work? The reality is that initiative and effort are often not enough to get Americans out of the traps of poverty, and that the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen. In an interview with Steve Zuckerman, MBA ’87, and Managing Director of Self–Help’s California operations, he revealed insights specific to financial challenges and solutions for the poor and underserved.
Greetings from Myanmar! After 50 years of isolation the country is now at a pivotal moment in time, entering a new era of international relations, development, and potential progress. In November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, laying the foundation for political changes. Following Parliament’s 2011 selection of U Thein Sein as president, the country has begun to open up and ushered in myriad reforms. In May 2012, the Obama administration lifted most prohibitions on Americans doing business in Myanmar, marking a new era of diplomatic relations with the United States.