This year marks my 10th year in business as Founder & CEO of Social Impact Architects. My intention in starting Social Impact Architects was simple – combine my on-the-ground experience working in nonprofits and government with new tools from my MBA at Duke. I was convinced that the social sector was using hammers and nails for a job that needs “power tools.” For the past seven years, I have written the Social TrendSpotter, a weekly blog to deliver those power tools to the sector, either by forging them myself or providing better instructions for existing tools. And, I always include a healthy dose of motivation from my own experiences and lessons learned from my amazing clients. We hope you have enjoyed the journey so far. To help you get ahead in the new year, we’ve prepared a list of 2019 TrendSpotter favorites. We hope this retrospective empowers you as you prepare for 2020.
When starting any new project, mindset is key. I personally love learning about how the brain works for us or against us. In this 2019 blog, we showcase how the mindset of individuals as well as organizations play a huge role in their ultimate success. Managing a social sector organization is not only about having a strategic plan, cultivating a strong board or satisfying your donors, clients and employees. It is also about cultivating the right mindset of curiosity, continuous improvement and change management. In our annual blog, we discuss these important shifts – Benefit Mindset vs. Fixed & Growth Mindset; Equity vs. Equality; Lateral Thinking vs. Creative or Critical Thinking; Flexible & Focused vs. Focused; and Excellence vs. Effort. As you move into 2020, we encourage you to re-read this post and see how far you have progressed in making these mental leaps in 2019.
While we talk a lot about innovation in the Social Trendspotter, sometimes we need to throw out the old and invent a new solution. When I first read Enterprising Nonprofits by the late J. Gregory Dees at the turn of the century, I ultimately decided to throw out the old and ineffective “charity” model and invest in the then-new “social entrepreneurship” model. For me, that decision has made all the difference. In this post, I share my insights from 20 years of practicing social entrepreneurship, including: Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution; Build from the Bottom Up; Think Outside the Box; Impact Is the Bottom Line; and Scaling Is the Final Frontier. As you reflect on your own personal drivers, I encourage you to check the list and revisit your approach to the community you serve.
In my work with students, the concepts of social entrepreneurship alone are not enough to lead to success. We often showcase stories of successful social entrepreneurs to learn, but students of social entrepreneurship also need step-by-step instructions to practice. Social Alchemy was born out of this need – how do you turn your ideas into gold? In my social entrepreneurship class, many of my students are surprised that social change doesn’t start with solutions. The social sector’s responsibility is to take a problem, transform it into an idea and then an impactful solution, which can be scaled to create change. Using the methodology of other professions (e.g., scientist for innovation, engineer for improvement and impact, and franchise owner for scaling), we break down each phase of the process and share tools of the trade. This allows students to move from observing social entrepreneurship to actually seeing it in action.
As more people join the tribe we call “social entrepreneurs,” the greater our need is for common social terminology. In this blog, I address the terms that people often confuse in the social sector. The definitions are ones you won’t forget and will help you spread the word about these important areas of social change.
Anniversaries are a time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and I had the chance to share some of those reflections on my 10 years at Social Impact Architects in an interview with Cassi Lowe of Be Good / Good Press. In it, I discuss lessons learned and my best advice for current/future social entrepreneurs. If you missed this post or the original interview, check it out and let me know what you think.
We hope you enjoy this look back at this year’s Social TrendSpotter favorites. If you have been inspired, we would love for you to share them through Twitter or Facebook. Feel free to forward this post to friends and colleagues, too. We would also love to hear your favorite posts of the year and how you have used them in your organization.