Social Change is inherently fraught with paradoxes and opposites. These opposing systems can be seen in simple cause and effect situations like children living longer because they are not dying from diseases like malaria, but they don't have access to education because the system in place was never meant to have so many children living beyond the age of three. These systems can also be seen in more complex situations like the removal of government funding for social services to be replaced by private foundations. This in turn means that private foundations that are typically established to fund innovative ideas, are now supporting baseline programming in order to ensure that the basic needs of an organization are met.
Supporting social change is done through a process, according to Westley, Zimmerman and Patton. The basic premise of this process is as follows:
- Support vision, people with a passion and emerging possibilities
- Support knowledge transfers, networking opportunities and connections between people and systems that can take things in a new direction
- Remove barriers to innovation
- Be passionate about things that matter to you
- Express your vision to others, this in turn will attract them to what you are trying to accomplish
- Be the change. As systems change around you, you will also adapt and change
- Support others in their attempts to change systems. Social innovation does not always conform to organizational management systems - be okay with this
- Watch and listen
- Accept the imperfections
This can be translated into Generating Social Capital in the following ways:
By investing your financial, human and intellectual resources into a person or an organization with passion, means that you agree with what they are trying to achieve. If you don't, or you can't align your values with their passion then this is not the type of social change you want to be engaged in.
Philanthropic investors can learn from each other. This knowledge transfer happens on many levels from attending conferences like the Global Forum for Philanthropy to more passive experiences like blogging (see my blog roll for some sites that I read regularly). The more you know about what others are the doing the stronger your network can be for leveraging your philanthropic investments to generate greater impact.
Don't always be hung up on outcomes. I write a lot about impacts. I think this is what is important. Working with a charitable organization to help them achieve their mission is just as important as providing them with the funding to achieve that mission. By providing unwieldy reporting requirements, or not providing the funding to generate those reports is, in essence, preventing you from achieving your objective of generating social capital and change.
If you believe in what you are doing, share that with others. Your passion will inspire others. Over the past few months, as I have been interviewing people on how and why the started their foundations, so many of them have said they were inspired by someone else who also wanted to change the world. It is that inspiration that fosters innovation. You might not end up working on the same project or with the same mandate, but your energy will encourage others to invest their energies into their own beliefs.
Social innovation, as stated before, is about conflict. The conflict can be around the issue that is being addressed, it can be around the process that is feeding into the current system or it can be the different approaches implemented to address the issue. As the system evolves and adapts, and as you influence that movement, you will be changed. Be okay with this. Innovation in and of itself is about altering the status quo, so you cannot be part of the status quo.
Did you know that LISTEN and SILENT are anagrams of each other? There might be a reason for this. As you see how others are generating social capital, learn from them and adopt their best practises into your own systems. As questions and hear the answer. You are impacting the world on so many levels, it is important to understand how one action can impact an entirely different system.
We live a in world, as you know that is imperfect. These imperfections are what drives us to change and be innovative. Enjoy this as you discover new ways of generating social capital as they align with your values and passions.