To quote Monty Python: And now, for something completely different…
In a sense, they could be talking about social enterprise. For many folks, this represents a whole new way of looking at the world, requiring new skills and new perspectives.
Experienced nonprofit people are facing the marketplace of competition and risk taking in ways they never imagined would be part of their careers. Funders become fickle, price-sensitive customers, constituents become potential customers, and partners flip their shingles and become unexpected competitors. Meanwhile the forprofit people who are committed to social change are seeking ways to manage and measure social impact as they face the unyielding need to become profitable or disappear. And some of their investors ask them not what the public can do for them, but what they can do for the public.
Sometimes it seem like you have to put on those strange 3-D glasses to see what’s really going on here.
What’s really going on here is a climactic shift in how we do the business of doing good. Government money is drying up, and at the state level, will largely disappear soon. The old boundaries between the sectors are eroding away, leaving only those species (or organizations or causes or entrepreneurs) that can adapt to these new conditions. As for the others, well, evolution is not too kind to those who don’t adapt. They end up in museums.
Here are some suggestions on how to evolve. Learn the business of business, even if your business is to save the world. Learn the lingo, take the tours, wade through the water. Take some business classes, consider getting an MBA. Find a mentor who gets business but also gets social change. Find and work for the most entrepreneurial organization in your field of interest.
Above all, recognize that earning requires learning, and one part of that learning is realizing that for social enterprise, it’s anything but business as usual.