So much for the new era of social economy and social entrepreneurship

The following is a response / commentary to Corvin Russel’s post on Judy Rebicks new blog Transforming Power.

Goodness knows, that I am completely incompetent to respond to Corvin’s post directly… I barely understood what he was talking about. So, tho I adore you Corvin, a people’s revolution will only happen if we understand what we are talking about : ) And I am lost.

But I shall give you my take on the bits that I was able to get my head around…

Corvin writes…

So much for the new era of social economy and social entrepreneurship. NGOs and foundations are downsizing left and right. A prominent social change event attended by social entrepreneurs and social innovators has had to be postponed because of the economic crisis.

Immediately, three issues arise from this statement….

  1. An assumption that more and bigger NGOs and foundations is good.
  2. Because one event is cancelled, the whole ecosystem must be falling apart.
  3. Somehow social entrepreneurship has failed because of this.

Wow! This will be juicy… so let’s address the issues in this order.

1. We have over 161,000 nonprofits and charities in this country

Probably more now. We have the 2nd largest nnprofit sector, per capita in the world. It is the faster growing sector in Canada. Everybody and their brother now wants to change the world and feels like they need their own nonprofit to do it… this is great that the energy is there, but do we seriously believe that there will be enough grants to support all of these organizations? There is duplication everywhere… there are inefficiencies everywhere. The nonprofit sector also gets stuck — like ever other sector — finding it difficult to make change. In fact, it is probably worse because of the way that we are governed by often risk adverse boards of directors by design.

Will this economic situation have an impact on NGOs? Yes! and you can regard this as a disaster or an opportunity…. or perhaps both, depending on the sector. But I have to believe that we can use some of the learnings that are evolving out of social innovation to begin to start transforming the sector… let’s take a peak…. some trends that I have been watching…. sharing, collaboration, networks, social enterprise can all provide some insight into building a more resilient nonprofit sector.

I was speaking to a fellow ED the other day who is faced with some major potential downsizing… yes it sucks, but there is an opportunity for a merger and certainly for a reinvention of how the group achieves its social mission….change is hard… but it can build more resilient organizations able to better achieve their social mission if we are smart.

2. Because one event is cancelled, the whole ecosystem must be falling apart

So forgive me for this, but…. Hollyhock and the Social Change Institute are great great folks, but they host this event on an island off the cost of BC…. it takes a day to get to and has never cost me less than $2000 – $4000 to attend one of these retreats. It is expensive at the best of times. Yes, the programs are amazing and are absolutely worth it, but to claim that this smart business decision on the part of Hollyhock suggests that social entrepreneurship has failed us is tres provocative…

CSI hosts hundreds of workshops and events every year… and we haven’t seen any decline in the amount of activity… in fact, we are expanding and are looking forward to new social innovators being able to be a part of our community…

3. Somehow social entrepreneurship has failed because of this

Oh come now Corvin…. hardship is the greatest impetus for innovation. Yes, we are facing tough times… it is pretty uncertain that CSI will be able to secure the funding that we need to run the Enterprising Nonprofits program again this year… and this would totally suck, but we would adapt…

Social entrepreneurship and the social economy are needed more than ever… until we grasp the opportunity to create our own enterprises we will continue to be reliant on ‘the man’ to give us a ‘job’… we are talking about a market transformation here… and we need all hands on deck. Look at the hard work of the Green Enterprise Toronto members, employing business practices to do their part to make the city cleaner and greener… look at networks like the Ontario Social Economy Roundtable and its members like the Community Economic Development Network that are actively working with new Canadians to apply CED thinking to their entrepreneurial spirit…Canadian’s creating jobs and adding value for Canadians… cool eh?

As we see entire towns and regions begin to collapse, you have to ask… what will replace these ‘jobs’… it is up to social entrepreneurs to take a serious look at how we can ensure that the phoenix that rises from these ashes is sustainable, just, fair and healthy… probably at a more reasonable scale… not necessarily the monolithic ’employers’ of the old economy… but potentially at a scale that is human, authentic and is able to add value to real people doing real things.

So yes, we need to be better connected to the means of production. Yes, we need a marketing transformation… and yes, we need some great analysis to make sure that we don’t reinvent a system that we know if broken… but don’t wipe out the whole social economy in one sentence… give we human’s that are working our buns off to find strategies to help us be less reliant on foundations and government funding, a little credit… pitch in… we could use the help… but don’t come looking for a job… instead… what can you create?

And now, maybe I can buy you a coffee and you can explain the rest of your blog posting to me… : )

Add a Comment