This is Not Who We Are

This is Not Who We Are

By Jeff Raderstrong

I’m beginning to realize that our institutions do not reflect who we are as people. They are not aligned with what really motivates us to get up in the morning.

Mostly, our institutions are siloed in their own work, driven by single-organization goals and short-term time horizons beholden to bottom lines. No matter if they are a for-profit, a nonprofit, or a government agency, the institutions we’ve created are mostly concerned about one thing: money. This just isn’t who we are.

Desire to create change has been shown to be a primary motivator for individuals. Edelman, the PR firm, has done extensive research on what they call “purpose” in motivating consumer behavior. They found that 87% of global consumers believe that a business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on their traditional business interests. Their research shows that purpose as a main driver in deciding what to buy continues to rise over time.

In a similar survey of Millennials, Deloitte found that almost 90% of respondents thought that business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance. And they also found that Millennials did not think any one sector had a monopoly on social innovation—business led the pack at 45%, but government and academic institutions also ranked high.

Clearly, people are interested in social change. They also understand that no one sector has all the answers. Unfortunately, most of our institutions do not operate as simple extensions of the people that work in them. On a whole, they have decided not to collaborate to pursue that goal we all want–to make the world a better place. And we live with the consequences: People fall through the cracks, societal ills continue to grow, and progress on our biggest issues are minimal at best.

There are exceptions, of course. The Obama administration has created a White House Office of Social Innovation that has given birth to things like the Social Innovation Fund, which combines public and private funds to scale up community solutions. Social Impact Bonds, first developed in the UK, is an innovative financial model where the government ensures financial returns for private investors if a nonprofit can achieve outcomes in a certain time period. The Start Up America Partnership, also born out of Obama’s White House, is creating start up communities across the country to nurture start-ups, boost job growth and improve America’s economic future. And smaller-level collaborations–like those in the Strive Network–are occurring across the world.

The phrase “we are all in this together” is repeated so much in the post-2008 financial meltdown social sector that it is at risk of becoming a platitude. People are beginning to realize that with strapped resources, we need to share resources and align goals if we are to overcome today’s most intractable problems.

So there is hope. But the reality is our institutions do not reflect our true nature. Humans are naturally social—we want to work together. But our organizations remain sectored. We sacrifice the potential for more effective results—greater change—by following our usual way of doing business.

What can we do? It is our nature to work together. It is our nature to want to make a difference. Now we must implement this not only in our individual lives, but in the extension of those lives: Our families, our careers, our institutions. How do we build a world where we all work together to make a difference?

Unfortunately, this is just another question we must answer. I don’t know what that answer is, but I do know how we can find it: Together. So please continue this conversation by commenting on this post, by commenting on future posts, coming to our events, andgetting more involved in what we do. Without your contributions, we’ll never be able to figure this out.

Photo credit: marsmet462