Here is an interesting clip from a conversation on the Omidyar network. There is an interesting thread running on the next generation of social enterprise. I am enjoying the banter around economic, behavioral and economic trends. The point that I am interested in pulling over here is the increasing interest on micro-scale enterprise connected via a dense web of communications (no surprise as the network stems from the E-bay vision). Thankfully, the ideas are stretching over to the discussion of nonprofit strategy.
This is a lot like the transition from the mini computer to the micro computer industry a few decades back. In the mini era, each company had its own vertical stack of activities, from making CPUs, disks, Operating systems, etc. The microcomputer came along and the industry became "layered" with Intel and AMD doing CPUs, Dell and Gateway doing boxes, Microsoft doing OS, etc.
This same "flip" could happen in philanthropy and social enterprise. Instead of creating 1 million+ "vertically integrated" non-profits (i.e. for which we need capacity building) there would be layers of services, into which service providers could seek their greatest value-added, in accordance with their vision. These layers, much like a protocol stack in communications networks, would be able to evolve independently. Maybe this is the third generation of social enterprise.
New angles on the network-centric approach to nonprofit work! I love the following story which is the heart of the need for a new approach. This same dynamic starts every day to address a huge set of injustices. It stems from three realities (lack of an easy connection to groups and others that may be working on the issue, lack of strategy by larger community to embrace micro agendas and empower local walk in campaigns and the cultural belief that the best way to get movement on an issue is to create a group)
I think that the biggest bang-for-buck for social enterprise would be to make it simpler for people with a vision to take action to make a difference. For example, I know of a family who lost a niece in a window-cord accident, and out of their grief, they want to start a 501(c)3 for child safety. Rather than starting a whole new organization for that purpose, wouldn't it be great if they could activate their vision, based on an array of off-the-shelf services?
A new network-centric strategy can address each of those motivating factors over time.