I was invited by Maria Antonakos of Opus Philanthropy to speak to her Philanthropy class in the Commerce program at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton. She asked me to talk about social finance and ‘a little bit about how you ended up doing what you do”.
I prepared the short presentation below to give the overview of social finance, social enterprise, and social innovation but somehow ended up getting into some fun rants about making choices to venture toward a just and sustainable society. I learned that they were just beginning to make their career choices and over the conversation I realized what an extraordinary privilege we have in our society to take risks and know that if we fail there is a strong support structure around us. Our main fears of failure relate to ego – not survival. Ironic really because if we don’t take risks and venture forward to create a better future we are playing with the possibility that we actually put our survival at stake. A bit drastic maybe but worth a thought. Bottom line, while some think that now’s a terrible time to start a business, if it’s a social venture I don’t think there’s ever been a better time.
Apparently my rants inspired them as I’ve now been invited to speak at their World Congress in the Student Development track. Based on the amount of fun I had – I can’t wait to do it again!
Full presentation available here (Keynote format)
Part of my silence over the last few months has been from some deep-digging I was doing in an engagement with the Social Innovation group at MaRS and with the Centre for Social Innovation. One of the great things about the engagement was an opportunity to push deeper into what’s underneath social innovation, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. What’s come from that is seeping into most everything I’m doing right now – and so it’s about time I get back to posting what I’ve been discovering.
Perhaps the most profound observation during the course of this exploration is that social innovation and social entrepreneurship are not so much intentional movements as they are phenomena of the evolution of civilization.
As civilization reaches an increasing degree of complexity we are being confronted by the limits of the system that created it. This is being experienced as systemic instability and failure in everything from credit markets to climate change to the remix of the music industry. While we don’t know how things will evolve, we can be sure that whether through intentional actions or systemic collapses, we are entering a period of increasing reconfiguration – “the Great Remix”
At the same time numerous fields of study are converging on the realization that “everything is connected” and that connectedness, connectivity, and emergence are fundamentally important areas of understanding. This realization is key to learning how we might successfully steer our civilization toward a just and sustainable state.
The movements of social finance/innovation/entrepreneurship/tech all bring different perspectives and at the same time share a common ground. From this common ground will come the new initiatives and systems that change the trajectory of our evolution.
The frontiers of the evolution of civilization share the common ground of:
Interdependent in a “common goal”
Acknowledging a greater common goal of a just and sustainable balance among people and the planet.
Driven forward by “purpose primacy”
People and initiatives that hold a primary purpose directly related to the common goal are the catalysts of civilization’s evolution toward a just and sustainable state.
Action taken through a “practical approach”
The strategies and actions of these people and initiatives tend towards:
- Sustainable financial viability;
- Practical and productive application of techniques and approaches from non-traditional domains; and
- Distributing increasing control, earnings, and assets into the communities they serve.
The people and initiatives in this domain tend to be increasingly expressive of the following values:
- Exhibiting the qualities of open, fluid, and dynamic
- Providing spaces for people as they are and as they want to become
- Embracing the richness and wisdom in differences
- Acting with a light spirit, sense of fun, creativity and a perspective of opportunity
I’ll post some more excerpts from this (‘Doing Differently…‘ and ‘Forces at play…‘) and my other recent work over the coming weeks as I get back into the groove.
Many things have been picking up the ‘social’ modifier lately. Here are some of the ones I’m encountering and what I think they mean.
First, the modifier ‘social’
- modifies the following word to the focus of serving a social (and/or environmental) benefit
- technology employed for social benefit (most commonly digital
- concerned generally with societal change and how it happens
- innovations and the process of innovating solutions that deliver or enable social change
- a venture with purpose primarily concerned with delivering social benefit
- concerned with developing and supporting entrepreneurs focused on social change (and primarily social ventures)
Clearly, each of these words describe fields with much activity and research into how they work. Adding the modifier, at best prompts the question of how, when modified, is it different. In my perspective it’s the realization that things aren’t linear – and in fact are ‘chaotic’ – which then calls on the research of systems science and it’s theories on complexity and systems. And it also seems to be best done in an ‘open’ way – or maybe better put – those that are in the depths of doing this stuff tend to do ‘open’… which of course… is another story.
The U.K. and soon the U.S. are putting together some great new hybrid models that look to engage the power of the capital markets in ventures that are created strictly in community interest. Take a look here for a primer on the U.K. model and here for launch pad to some of the U.S. work. Seeing the evolution of markets is a wonderful thing.