Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Social Entrepreneurship

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet. And I must admit, I don’t quite know what to do with it. It probably has something to do with all of those systems-theory lectures I had at university. Here it is: We know the world and what happens in it cannot necessarily be explained in a linear fashion. So why, oh why do we plan and evaluate ALL our projects according to the logic model (where the combination of A, B and C under conditions D and E will produce F, G and H)? – then again… maybe it is just me and other people (Maybe I should Ask Bob Williams… he’s a real systems guy!) already have very nicely functioning alternative toolsets and methods to evaluate the non-linear world. (If you happen to be one of them, please come and save me from my ignorance and leave a comment so that I can learn from you)

I’m not proposing that we throw out that approach totally. But really! Given the scope of the developmental challenges we have here in SA, we must really hope for a miracle if we think that our logically planned out projects are going to solve all of our problems. If we have a little faith in the fact that we live in a chaotic system that has the capacity for self-organisation, we might actually want to start planning our interventions in a way that empowers key agents in the system to go out and do a number of unexpected and hopefully amazing things.

A related question: Why do we ONLY fund and evaluate projects and organizations, when it is people that make the difference? Let me clarify, I’m not saying projects and organizations don’t make a difference… But it is the 79 year old lady that decides to do something for the kids of her community on one special day. It is the social worker who thinks of a way to take the extra food off our tables and find a way to distribute it to those who need it… It is the guy who drives past the men on the side of the road that suddenly thinks of a way to provide tools and job opportunities to them.

These special people – “Social Entrepreneurs” I think they are called - Should be funded to do what they do best – think of ideas, implement them and set up structures. Because lo and behold they start worrying about how to put dinner on the table and abandon their potentially brilliant idea to take a desk job somewhere! This is apparently exactly what Ashoka does. See their website for more information:

When venture capital investors want to invest in a new and innovative idea the majority of their pre-assessment work is around the individual that is pitching the idea. Some people just have the diversity of networks, skills and resources at their disposal to make things happen. Maybe there is some lesson in this for us!

No comments: