My belief, as has been stated on this blog repeatedly, is that we can only solve social challenges through the combined contributions and creativity of all sectors. There is no reason we should expect any single sector to ever solve our social/environmental problems - simply because these problems are a result of the dynamic failures of all of the sectors. In other words, business, government and independent action created our social ills, they will all have a role to play in solving them.
That said, vision and creativity are clearly important elements of philanthropy/social enterprise making an impact - and being part of tri-sector solutions.
Here's an interesting provocation about how this all might play out - the Futurist Magazine (published by World Futures Society) has this idea in its Outlook 2008 section (Nov/Dec 07 issue):
"Socially responsible investing may get a boost from venture capitalists. Investment in green or clean technologies such as such as alternative fuel development is gaining momentum. This new interest by venture capitalists follows a trends led by individual investors and mutual funds to weigh social values alongside financial reports."Here's a link to free abstract - full article is available for purchase.
So - back to some of this blog's favorite themes:
- Solutions will require that each sector make its best contributions in relationship with those of the other sectors;
- Aligned investing is on the rise;
- Advocacy as a tool is better understood by more and more funders and nonprofits;
- Alternatives and new methods are evolving from established approaches - learning from the past and deploying new mechanisms will move us forward
That said, if we look to the dynamic interactions between public/commercial/independent action that resulted in our environmental challenges, our human rights failings, our educational failures, our health care challenges, etc. than we can craft potential investments and solutions to these challenges by:
- Using resources from each sector in new ways;
- Jointly designing solutions with input from each sector;
- Considering the limitations of each sector, mapping how these interact with those of the other sectors, and investing knowledge and resources in ways that directly counter those aggregated failures;
- Considering "the grey area" - sometimes called the fourth sector - as a new blend of the first three, not a silver bullet replacement;
- Using new tools to understand complex problems - tools such as social network analysis or the kinds of complex problem solving highlighted here