I often decry the people who are on the lookout for “the next big thing.” This may be fitting for fashionistas and techies, but it can cause serious problems for social changemakers. The human attention span is short–every single election cycle case in point–and we tend to get bored rather quickly when a proposed solution to some problem isn’t working (as fast as we want). Thus, we tend to look towards the future for the next silver bullet to finally pierce the heart of society’s problems, once and for all.
It’s been microfinance. Social enterprise. Occupy. Health care reform. When something doesn’t deliver on its promise (or as Jed Emerson recently argued, a false victory is declared), we quickly move on to the next solution presented to us. And luckily, in this age of Twitter feeds and multiple 24 hour news channels, those potential solutions aren’t hard to find. I could spend all my time reading reports and blog posts from associations, think tanks, and consulting firms about the next big discovery that’s going to change the world. (To be honest, that is how I spend an embarrassingly large amount of my time.)
Unfortunately, none of those solutions will deliver on the explicit or implicit promises made. There are no silver bullets, as blogger Saundra Schimmelpfennig has so aptly stated. Instead, all these innovative solutions (assuming they actually solving problems and not a waste of resources) coming out of nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies will make a difference by operating in concert. Taken together, they form the tapestry of social change.
What we need is something to weave that tapestry together. Two recent blog posts inspired me to write this post, one from FSG’s global health blog and the other from Living Cities’ Catalyst. Both listed “takeaways” derived from two recent initiatives from the organizations, one being corporate involvement in global health and the other about transforming local governments. What was surprising to me was how both of these initiatives developed solutions rooted in organizational collaboration and industry infrastructure.
UnSectored blogger Laura Tomasko writes frequently about infrapreneurship–the idea that individuals can connect organizations and strengthen sector infrastructure. I think this is needed not only at the individual level, but at the organizational level as well. Sure, there are tons of associations and think tanks out there connecting organizations within a certain sector, or sub-sector, which is great, don’t get me wrong. But we also need to connect all those interested in social change across sectors and provide the support for a robust infrastructure that supports organizations as they adapt to problems and develop innovative solutions.
This is what UnSectored is doing. As we grow our operations, we will continue to strengthen these connections. Building cross-sector infrastructure is the next big thing–and it isn’t going anywhere. It is going to take the place of all other “big things,” because without infrastructure, nothing can be weaved into the tapestry of social change. Without it, there would be no other “big things” in the first place.
There is infrastructure in place now, but we need more. We need to strengthen what we already have to make a robust social sector that cuts across all current sectors.
What do you think needs to be a part of that infrastructure? Leave a comment here, send us an email, or come hang out on Monday the 16th at the next UnSectored Talks and let us know in person. Either way, we can’t figure this out without everyone’s help.
Photo credit: slowlysheturned
We tend to look towards the future for the next silver bullet to finally pierce the heart of society's problems, once and for all.
We also need to connect all those interested in social change across sectors and provide the support for a robust infrastructure.