Monday, February 25, 2013

Will ripples turn the tide?

Experience has shown that fatigue of the mundane always takes fancy to creative ideas, howsoever small. Many such innovative ventures, be it an experimental school or a community bank, are conveniently put into 'game changing' category, with the hope that the world would be a better place should these get scaled up. It is another matter that the world is fast sinking into social, economic and political abyss, lacking moral and ethical courage to pull itself out of it. Will ripples caused by small initiatives turn the wave of destruction away? Moving from the corporate sector into the world of social entrepreneurs, Beverly Schwartz could only have been overwhelmed by it after meeting eighteen diverse social entrepreneurs from across the globe.

Combined with the depth of observations and analysis, Schwartz makes a compelling case for the need to build a supportive ecosystem for the system-changing ideas to bring about 'big picture' change. It means that the reach of small-scale innovation can only be expanded provided political and institutional capacities are conducive. Given the complex world we all live in, rarely does ecosystem allow fresh ideas to flourish. The odds are always stacked against 'change maker'.

At times, social entrepreneurs have been criticized for not acknowledging people as the drivers of change but for insisting upon ‘change’ to drive communities instead. The latter approach undermines local wisdom and traditional institutions at the cost of external intervention. Unless communities absorb the change, the change is unlikely to last long. It is here that social entrepreneurs have often got it wrong: far from being the catalysts of change they insist on themselves being the 'change'.

Despite being part of the Ashoka's global marketing team, Schwartz has tried to remain objective in her analysis. Predictably, she picked up successful social entrepreneurs whose ideas could withstand the test of success in the market. That successful social innovation must fit within the prevailing market structure is somewhat contentious. Far from being cure-all, markets have remained at the root of most ills affecting the society today. Unless social entrepreneurs succeed in creating ‘another world’, the ripples are quite unlikely to turn the tide....Link

by Beverly Schwartz
Jossey-Bass, John Wiley Imprint, USA
269 pages, US $ 27.95

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