Social change does not work like business change

Social change does not work like a business change. Social change organizations are not exactly like business. A different context defines the problems and a different mind-set is required to approach the work.

Easy, isn’t it?Everybody knows.
But it is so hard to deal with when business meets social.

It just starts with the language. It is hard to find the same language and understanding when business and non- profit organisations meet and talk about needs, complexity, strategy and measuring success.

Meanwhile business people aim to develop a strategic business plan, deduce activities and fix key performance indicators by expecting the same from the social sector, and viceversa non- profits are not always deeply familiar with these typical business approaches and methodology or do not define them as focus needs and activities.
Working together requires a huge learning process on both sites and the acceptance that there is so much to learn:

  • realize that the interplay of complex, societal problems can not be solved via a “business plan” only – poverty, patriarchy, religion, political gridlock, incomplete infrastructure, corrupt elites
  • accept that philanthropy is not ‘just like business’ . Human behavior and development is hard to be foreseen. There are huge surprises… and a wide openess needed to learn new context and results.
  • talk about humans, not numbers. Social change is not a project with a defined number of activities, stakeholders, budget and timeline. It has no clear starting and endpoint. Which does not esclude that a more strategic approach, business skills and measuring impact – used in a different way, in a different environment and different adaptation might be very useful. But you cannot find that easily in books and time is needed to find the right way together, to transform and adapt business knowhow
  • do not do what you always have done. Do not go with people who worked with you in the past. Hire experience with people who are active in the other area, meet the other players.
  • listen and learn from each other. Simply, be open to re-think!
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