Last week I attended Opportunity Collaboration an un-conference conference of people working on social impact. Participants go to Mexico to rejuvenate themselves, make connections and share the latest and greatest on development.
After a couple deep explorations on how to measure impact I was struck by two things:
One – As nonprofits and social enterprises we define ourselves by the nature of our work, but that might hide the function we play in the societies and communities we work in.
For example in one community a micro-finance institution could be supporting budding entrepreneurs. In another it might be act as a social safety-net for the poorest, proving loans for survival. It’s not what we do but the role we play.
Two – Sustained solutions require leveraging others. Real impact is a team effort.
For example, the micro finance institution acting as a social safety-net could partner with a health center to reduce the vulnerability of their clients. Or a lender to women’s agricultural co-operatives could join forces with a youth training institution to provide mini-clinics on business planning. “We are all just one arrow in the quiver of solutions needed to hit the target of development.” – Ben S.
All this begs the questions:
- In some sectors is it too much to ask one organization to demonstrate impact?
- Should we allocate resources to help nonprofits, social enterprises, government and civil society to collaborate more?