Thursday, April 12, 2007

Collective Entreprenuerism - GPF Day 2

Judging by the discussions here at the GPF, both in sessions and in hallways, the blending of enterprise and social outcomes is here to stay. Things that used to seem odd, and that needed a lot of definition, are taken for granted here. Examples include the following concepts:

* social capital markets
* hybrid organizations
* for profit venture capital firm investing in social enterprise

Thank goodness, in this discussion of rational market-based solutions there is acknowledgement that passion also plays a big role. Steve and Jean Case, offered the following advice to new donors: "stay who you are, bring what you're good at to the game."

As the philanthropic industry becomes ever more a blur between mission and market, passion should be used as a north star in two ways: donors should focus on what they care about and bring the skills they have AND they should recognize the partners who already exist with whom they should partner. Back someone who is doing what you care about, don't necessarily start your own thing.

This last point resonated with the audience that filled Google's Cafe, even though it might initially have seemed out of place in a discussion so heavily influenced by "entrepreneurial idealism." Given the ratio of enterprises to capital and the fragmentation of philanthropy and citizen organizations finding ways to work together (a less sexy version of scale) is critical. The issue is how to be collectively entrepreneurial.

If this conference moves us past the common understanding of entrepreneurs as lone wolves, who succeed on their own despite all obstacles that will be a good thing. The sessions have looked deeply at the need for partnerships, starting with a morning panel on "unusual alliances for climate change."

Having moved social enterprise into the vernacular, the next questions are about changing the nature of capital systems for social action and the 'architecture' and enabling environments that must be built to grow successful enterprises. Such infrastructure clearly includes human capital, policy environments, and financial innovation.

This would be an important shift in cultural definition - if we can come to associate and recognize the role that systems, architecture, and collective action with entrepreneurial success.

I missed day one of the conference due to illness - this story in the Silicon Valley-loving Mercury News captures much of what occurred, at least as I was able to gather from talking with people today.

No comments: