Last week, I was fortunate enough to be present at an event put on by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Social Entrepreneurship Institute. The panel was informative and though-provoking. Perspectives were diverse, ranging from the corporate social responsibility viewpoint to the emerging activist non-profit angle. I especially enjoyed the lively discussion focused on the massive disconnect between good intentions and real results.
We need something better. There’s so many non-profits and NGOs out there that have been trying to solve the most pressing social problems that plague our world, but where are the results? Why are there so many different organizations competing to work on solving the same social problems? How many trillions of dollars have been donated to the developing world over the last 50 years? What happened to all this money, all these good-hearted efforts? In relation to the dollars being spent and the selfless labor being exhausted, the results are pathetic. We can do better than this.
By and large, previous efforts have lacked strategy, actionable goals and accountability. There aren’t enough tough questions being asked and it’s just really difficult to effectively measure social outcomes in a way that matters to all stakeholders involved.
This is all changing though, very rapidly. There’s this new kind of giving going on called impact investing that borrows from social entrepreneurship by marrying traditional philanthropy with business. These ‘investments’ create social and environmental impact coupled with a financial return; good for the world and good for the wallet. B Corps is doing some great work spearheading efforts to further develop and implement the GIIRS, as a tool to bring more accountability and transparency to the impact investing world.
The infrastructure is gaining momentum and robust systems are being created to augment philanthropic efforts and create more impact. Let’s start putting this infrastructure to use and really testing it in the market. The potential is infinite; the foundations for a more effective way to make our world better have been laid. Collaboration is the new competition. I imagine a world where good intentions do translate to good results and all the good-hearted, yet tragically misguided efforts of the past remain a history lesson. Let’s learn from what we’ve been doing and make it better.