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Tension and Possibility: The New Dynamics of Change

Reflections on Ashoka’s Change Nation event in Dublin.

I just returned from Ashoka’s remarkable Change Nation event in Dublin. It was all the more remarkable for me because it came on the heels of ten days in Serbia, Bosnia, and Romania, where I met with U.S. Ambassadors, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and the feistiest of grassroots technology activists.

An overarching theme emerged from my trip, a theme of possibility and tension.

The possibility is quite apparent: New technologies enable innovators and change on a whole new order of magnitude.

The tension is more nuanced. We need to reconcile the sense of immediacy that animates new, innovative technologists with the need to create solutions at scale.

You can think of it as scrappy vs. strategic. Or scrappy and strategic, which is really tough.

My own organization, TechSoup Global, is feeling both the possibility and the tension. In Romania, led by our local partner, we ran a hugely successful open government, anti-corruption challenge, with the highest level of support from U.S. Ambassador Mark Gitenstein. Amb. Gitenstein has energetically motivated U.S. ambassadors all over Central and Eastern Europe to request such challenges in their own countries and has motivated the U.S. State Department to offer financial assistance as well.

But I may have somewhat disappointed him. Hearing his enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the Ambassador to Slovakia, Tod Sedgwick, I had to respond that in our strategic considerations in San Francisco, Calif., we see the need to build a solid technological infrastructure on which, eventually, we can base hundreds of challenges. So the ambassadors were saying, “Be scrappy,” and I was the one saying, “But wait…” Not a position I’m accustomed to. I felt a bit like the dog that caught the school bus.

Then I spent about six hours with Nick McKinlay, who directs the civil society division of AKDN and who was kind enough to travel to Bucharest to meet up. AKDN is all about creating a cohesive approach to development, spanning all relevant players to optimize long-term outcomes. It’s impossible to overstate its assets in terms of relationships, experience, comprehensive theory of change, and resources. The network has a majority stake in the company that built the Seacom Cable! Do you think that relationship might possibly be relevant to developing capacity in Africa?

So I’d put Nick and AKDN over on the strategic side of the spectrum. After Nick and I finished our second long discussion, we strolled back to his hotel by way of the office of TechSoup Romania, where our partner, Chris Worman, introduced us to Vlad Atanasiu. Vlad represents the tension side of the spectrum. He is part of the collective that runs the Resource Center for Student Organizations (CROS) and that partners with TechSoup Romania on Restart Education, a challenge that aims to blow up Romania’s higher education system, which people like Vlad perceive as sclerotic and stifling of imagination, talent, innovation, and real learning. The collective supports itself through contracts with companies, such as Kraft, that recognize they are much more likely to find innovative talent among participants in Vlad’s program.

Vlad_Atanasiu_and_Chris_Worman

Vlad Atanasiu (left) and Chris Worman (right).

Vlad is waaaaaaaay beyond scrappy; he is living the change, as they say. I’d compare his ethos to that of the Occupy movement, with the difference that Vlad’s group is much more focused and results-oriented. He reads management theory, but he works long hours for low pay to make a difference today. And in that way, he is on the same wavelength as the Bosnian organization ZastoNe (“Why Not?”), which just organized the remarkable Point Conference, as well as DokuKino in Serbia, which partners with NGOs throughout the Western Balkans on social media projects.

He is also on the same wavelength as many of the Ashoka innovators who gathered in Dublin for Change Nation. What a great event this was! Ashoka gathered 50 of its very smart fellows—and their social innovations—in one place: Ireland. As it happens, Ireland is home to a lot of brilliant Irish people, and in this moment of national financial struggle, Ashoka used its considerable cachet to organize all levels of Irish society around the concept of working with the visiting innovators.

A few of the innovators, including TechSoup Global, have already been working with Irish partners—in our case, the tech organization Enclude. At Change Nation, Enclude found new allies like venture capitalist Bryan Caulfield, who offered to help add broadband access to Enclude’s donations menu. Other innovators, such as Gregor Hackmack of the German political watchdog project Candidate Watch, gained entry into a new environment. Candidate Watch left with various commitments of support, including one from a young and very competent Ashoka volunteer committed to organizing their presence in the next Irish election.

But back to the tension. There are 3,000 Ashoka fellows, innovators all. The 50 in Dublin were selected and presented by Ashoka as the most advanced, most able to instill their innovations in Ireland. I talked to enough of them in Dublin to know that many of them feel a real urgency about moving forward. The 2,950 others are, by and large, like Vlad: brilliant, passionate, and not necessarily thinking about integrated development strategies.

It is possible to say that’s “just like it ever was.” The young want change now, while their elders see the need for strategy and integration. But I would argue that it is not at all like it ever was. What has changed is that our beleaguered species now has a vast and necessary resource available to it, a resource that, arguably, is the single great hope we have to save ourselves. This resource is youth, enabled by technology and determined to get past the nationalistic, fundamentalist crises that ensnare us and threaten our survival.

So the question becomes: How do the AKDNs and TechSoup Globals manage to work at scale while integrating, serving, growing, and learning from this important constituency? And there’s one point I can’t emphasize too strongly: It’s not about internships! It’s not about letting this constituency into our midst. The new constituency of “changemakers” (to use Ashoka’s term) doesn’t feel like it needs the previous generation of social change organizations. The new people will work with the previous generation under certain circumstances, but they will insist on autonomy, and they are impatient.

If we lose them, the battle is lost. If we listen to them, we might have a chance.

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COMMENTS

  • BY Evonne Heyning

    ON March 30, 2012 10:58 AM

    I see the possibility to be both scrappy and strategic in how we grow these global challenges to empower local organizations. Last night we had dinner with a friend of yours to discuss growing tech storytelling capacity in Europe; we looked at how to empower local leaders while encapsulating what’s working for turnkey solutions. We imagined allowing broadcasters in Serbia to plug in with NGOs in a more robust way, rewriting the desire for compelling content into a new model PSA program for national broadcasters in countries around the world.

    Every broadcast network on this planet should be working with the NGO sector.
    In the last 20 years most broadcasters have moved away from Public Service Announcement rotations entirely or shifted them into the 12-5AM deadzone. Social stories are essential to the passage of useful information between people and as leaders in the NGO sector we need to continue asking our media networks to set aside some portion of their programming traffic for causes.

    In the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge the winning entry for 2012 was a 30 second PSA on adoption that created a meaningful request that can grow a movement. I am eager to see new participatory networks sprout up worldwide and am happy to be guiding this movement for live, global and local streaming programming that asks the audience to actively find solutions and join in the creation process. This is how we can be both scrappy, strategic and grow great orgs at the same time.

    Thanks for keeping up the good work to make it happen Daniel!

  • BY Mario Morino

    ON March 31, 2012 09:23 AM

    Daniel, These are great insights and the kind I’ve come to expect and value from you over the years.  There are a number of great points, but two in particular strongly resonated:

    1.  You correctly and with insight highlight the “tension …and need to reconcile the sense of immediacy that animates new, innovative technologists with the need to create solutions at scale.”  Certainly there are times when such immediacy is needed and creates positive disruption and even constructive civil response, but most of our biggest challenges have developed over many years and are interwoven—right or wrong—into our societal DNA.  Disrupting or undoing this calcification does not lend itself to immediacy or simple solutions but, as you’ve long recognized, takes thoughtful, collective, and meaningful action.

    2.  Your closing point aligns to the growing demographic conflict around age that we are observing, at least here in the US.  There appears to be a growing tension between the Baby Boomer generation that is in large part responsible for our current state of affairs and the young people coming out of schools and entering the labor markets.  They are our hope and our challenge.  And, we all need to heed your last line “If we lose them [the new constituency of young changemakers], the battle is lost. If we listen to them, we might have a chance.”

    Great job!

  • BY Todd Khozein

    ON April 1, 2012 04:32 PM

    Daniel,

    Thank you for this very insightful post.  I can’t help but thinking of an analogy of developmental psychology as I read your post.  It seems that any time there is a phase transition in societal maturity (or in our own psychology from childhood -> youth -> adulthood) it seems that we face a similar sort of tension.  How do we go about doing things differently given our newly acquired resources?  In this case we are starting to see this new era when thousands upon thousands can actually think and act together in technologically enabled collaboration.  This mass collaboration, like the kind we see in some of the initiatives we work with (Random Hacks of Kindness,Code4Country, and Intel’s Code4Good) tends to generate a tremendous amount of innovation, as is to be expected when many people come together for intense and short bursts of time.  The question of how that spike of energy can advance innovation in a direction that represents a more profound and well thought out strategy is indeed a tough one to crack.  As you can imagine, this is a question we spend a lot of time pondering. 

    I think we see and feel a tension between the two not because there is an inherent dichotomy and tension between scrappy and strategic, but rather because we haven’t figured out how scrappy becomes a critical component to healthy and robust strategic vision.  Luckily for us, there are a lot of good people, some of whom you highlight in your article, that are thinking about this too.  I look forward to working with TechSoup Global and others to figure it out!

  • BY Vlad Atanasiu

    ON April 2, 2012 07:02 AM

    < Me vs We >
    Sharing the article with the people in CROS was great. Thank you for all the nice words, we are humbled. On a side note, one thing I really need to mention is the way I feel when you write “Vlad’s group…” - I feel that it’s not mine, but ours. And that goes deep with us - we try to nurture an organizational culture were everybody excercisez leadership everyday, rather than having one or several champion-like leaders, being followed around by others. I’d rather think the whole problem in terms of we rather then me.

    < Scrappy vs Strategic >
    As far as we are concerned, the solution is right there in your words: “scrappy AND strategic”. And that’s an interesting but hard proposition. How we reconcile the two is as follows: scrappy comes out of enthusiasm and energy invested in change, strategic must come out of alignment of actions with values (rather than objectives). Because the rate of change is so great, objectives become outdated really fast. And you need to change or improve them on the fly. That’s not to say we don’t use objectives. We just don’t hinge on them so much that it criples our options or blind us to new perspectives. Instead we hinge on values as drivers for our action. And that allows for greater flexibility and innovation and is also more inclusive for large numbers of changemakers (you can also choose to read “leaders”) working together. The inclusive part is quite important when you try to allign the actions of smart, decisive, competent people, each contributing with his/her own perspective on change.

    < Generations working together >
    I think the time is right for your last question. It’s been on my mind for some time (a year or so). As I see it it’s a great time for this dialogue: the baby boomer generation has acumulated a lot of resources and is also at a point were it’s asking (again) the big questions and addressing the big issues in the world. In the same time young people are the most connected, best informed and empowered generation ever, mostly due to new media and technology. We are eager to see substantial action being taken after big words have been spoken. Please don’t missunderstand me - I think big words - values - are a great part of our generation’s ethos. But we kind of take them for granted, and we need to live by them every day. And for that we need the resouces wich sometimes seem locked away behind old ways of thinking. Again, it’s not a “me thing”, but a “we thing”.

    So, this is my perspective. I wonder what you think of it and I’m very interested if you believe the “strategic”generation would be willing to take the “risk” of driving change toghether with us, by values rather than objectives?

  • BY Daniel Ben-Horin

    ON April 3, 2012 08:18 AM

    I very much appreciate these comments.

    Vlad - Your counterpoint of values and objective seems to me so spot on as to be scary. The baby-boomers-in-power that I know would no more abandon their objectives-based orientation than they would fly to Jupiter. And the generation behind them—people who are 45-50 now—are even more so. It’s how they (we) think. I could go on, but in a nutshell, I think the ‘end of ideology’ has transmuted into a kind of technocratic approach to fixing the world. But that’s not what drives the current baby boomers, your generation. Today feels a lot to me like 1963 or so, when the social ground had just started to shift, as distinct from 1970, when the outlines of the shift had become a lot clearer. The current powers that be—largely my generation—look at social media and say, “Ok, this is new, but we can work with it.” I don’t think they’ve seen anything yet; I think we’re on the cusp. What you’re calling ‘values’ is a very different, non-technocratic way of looking at the world, I think, and, to be honest, I don’t know the answer to your question about the ‘risk’. But it’s the right question.

    Todd - If any organization is working effectively at this nexus, it is Random Hacks. You’re engaging the leading edge of hackers with the World Bank, Microsoft, Google etc. in a truly creative way. If you guys can succeed in transmuting the sheer energy and brainpower and off the grid thinking of hackers into solutions that actually get implemented at needed scale, it will be a beacon out of the darkness. Thanks for the comment. RHok on.

    Mario - As you note, the “growing demographic conflict” is a big and overlooked factor in the equation. My own thinking has been heavily influenced by Strauss-Howe generational theory
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss-Howe_generational_theory
    which seems like a good framework in which to think about a time when young people can’t leave home and when the birth rate in Europe and elsewhere is plummeting.

    /daniel

  • BY Beth Kanter

    ON April 3, 2012 11:58 AM

    Daniel: 

    Terrific post and thanks for sharing your experience in Romania and Ireland and your insights on the tension between scrappy and strategic.   

    It reminded of another metaphor from a keynote that Mark Pescue gave at TechSoup Global’s Australia partner - Connecting Up.  The metaphor was “Tower and Cloud”—Pescue was talking about organizational cultures, but given the technological innovation potential we have—there are two divergent methods for getting results - as you point out - strategic and scrappy and the tension.

    I agree with and really like how Vlad Atanasiu as framed the solution.  That is you need both.  So, the question becomes “How do you lead a nonprofit in way that accommodate both styles of working - and know when to switch between the two.”    So, I guess we’re talking about agile ways of developing solutions to scale - that are both strategic but can rapidly adapt.

    Also, on the generational issue—and I’m speaking a baby boomer myself —I think we no longer can consider ourselves to have wisdom because we have experience.  We need to switch to a “co-learning” role with younger leaders - and learn from them together as we make change.  And that isn’t easy for a lot of us who were born in the babyboomer “Me” generation to shift and work along side the “We” generation.  But it is an exciting to think of possibilities of doing that ....

     

  • BY Chris Worman

    ON April 4, 2012 08:25 AM

    Bratislava, late summer 2009, CEE Trust brought together 250 odd members of established civil society in Central and Eastern Europe to look at where we had come after 20 years (http://csf.ceetrust.org).  A Social Innovation Camp was run in parallel.  During 48 hours a group of 40 or so youngsters hacked a series of websites together that were relevant, timely, expressive and impressive - addressing issues from the rise of far right extremists to offering a first-aid approach to those seeking mental health support. And they hadn’t talked to we old folks in the main conference.  Their work was inspiring and/or terrifying to the attendees, some of whom felt decades of work had been trumped in a matter of minutes.  We venerable elders immediately started trying to apply labels (to understand? to claim a place?).

    Last week, I was invited to attend Microsoft’s Innovate4Good kick-off in Redmond.  This global series of events seeks to build a community of active and tech-ed up socially minded youth who can be listened to and worked with, supported and rewarded for their efforts.  It was an inspiring event and wonderful to see that the majority of the issues raised mapped to those in discussion a continent away through TechSoup Romania and CROS’ Restart Education - - user-facing improvements to education through supporting teacher adoption of tech, advocacy for more student voice etc…

    What I love about these events is the optimism, hope, raw ability and potential for a home-run in a networked tech-environment that can accelerate to tangible and scalable change in a relatively short period of time.  I am intrigued by the sense of possibility and way in which youth are designing what are essentially social apps - time sensitive and targeted solutions to issues affecting their lives.  I love that they are not burdened by the overwhelming discussion about root problems ... solving hunger, ending poverty and all of our perpetual wars on humanity’s darker facets.  I love that they are going to do it with or without us.

    What I don’t love is seeing the same solutions built over and over again (though I certainly see value in youngsters figuring out for themselves).  What I don’t love is the lack of data they face, lack of support in nailing down specific problems, and that they have to go back to school on Monday. 

    Something percolating in the back of my mind, spurred by this discussion, and related to how we engage productively, is that youth may be driving an outright hack on our concept of civil society.  I am fairly convinced these youth hacktivists are kith-and-kin to Daniel and his group circa ’63.  I can’t quite nail it down but it appears to be truly decentralized and network driven, individual empowered, and of a different flavor to most of what we cook up in ‘organized’ civil society.  It is enhanced by the scalable and countable nature of tech but it may not be meant to scale, it may not be forever, and they may simply not care about things like ‘sustainability’…

    There are parallels to what we have done and obviously much this pool of talent can learn from our experiences.  But I cringe when I hear folks overestimating our importance in this dialog (not in this string but I am sure you have heard it too).  Rather than try to control it by framing in our terms, we might spend time looking at ways to position ourselves -and the results of all our swell strategies and plans as a platform - - to open our knowledge (read data) built through our various, somewhat industrial social engineering efforts as an API and see what kind of apps they may build on our reality?  Perhaps we can be strategically scrappy and engaging by democratizing our process and letting youth hack our space freely?  And perhaps through this process we are the ones who have the most to learn, through their eyes, about how to remain relevant with the shift to the web and fundamental restructuring of human dialog?

    No answers here but thank you all for your debate, which has helped me think about some of my questions.  And glad to see groups like Random Hacks, Microsoft etc… all trying to figure out the engagement model that is going to make sense of youth, technology, social change, and what we think we already know.

  • BY Victoria Vrana

    ON April 4, 2012 04:06 PM

    Daniel—I really appreciated your blog post too.  I was wrestling with similar thoughts about innovation vs. scale, scrappy vs. strategic after the recent GEO conference in a way that relates to measurement. 

    There is much excitement and interst in measuring/tracking/using data in real time to shift course on emergent, collaborative, and innovative efforts.  At the same time, we see a huge emphasis and need to “scale what works” in the field which implies rigorous measurement that PROVES what works.  It’s completely possible to do both within the same organization, but I don’t think people are always clear about when they are using measurement and data to “sense-make” vs. “case-make”.  Totally different set of measurement tools and skills needed. We need to be very informed and focused about what types of data, measurement, and evaluation we need for the stage of the intervention.

  • Alicja Peszkowska's avatar

    BY Alicja Peszkowska

    ON April 6, 2012 01:16 AM

    Daniel,

    I heart the honesty with which you are stating these questions, as I found them to be very important in the context of what TechSoup does, as well as the broader “the end of institutions” one. The scrappy vs strategic really resonates with me, and I am not sure if they can always go hand in hand. It is possible, but extremely hard.

    For innovation to happen a lot of “freedom” is required—creativity and a group process both take time and flexibility. Time is money and flexibility makes people uncomfortable.

    Facilitating a community driven effort also means giving up power and handing it over to the social actor(s). Now: giving up power. That just sounds like becoming vulnerable and threatens everyone.

    Still. I think that both of the thigs I mentioned—giving up power, as well as providing the community with the conditions required, are crucial for organizations to survive. Informal groups organized around causes are doing great with solving particular problems without institutionalizing their efforts. They still need empowerment though.

    I believe that this little revolution within insitutions will happen, and that it can even prove successful, as long as an organization remains focused.

    We can no longer “be in charge”, but we can stay guided by our mission.

  • BY juan negrillo

    ON April 7, 2012 06:40 PM

    daniel,

    from knowing your work and reading your reflections in the post i see that you are an example of scrappy and strategic that makes sense and has had success in bringing some sustained change, so i must agree with Vlad, it is scrappy “and” strategic.

    someone has said -can’t remember who right now- that this are special times because for the first time in history the young generation has the possibility to teach the old generation and it doesn’t have to necessarily be the other way around only.  i believe that acknowledging that fact will help to bring some of the great new ideas into the picture and give them a chance of becoming real sustained change.  at the same time, that recognition allows the younger scrappy ones to look more openly into receiving and using strategic advice.  that is the blend that will settle change, but even if it is happening right now it is too soon to see its effects in the big picture, yet.

    i have the strong feeling that more and more people all over the world -and a greater number amongst the youngest- are now working with this common and somewhat unspoken ideal of a better world -one with less violence and more justice, respect and work for others’ well being as much as for ourselves’-.  we are many with many unique ideas that may seem isolated and technology is not only enabling them but may also connect them by what they have in common, that is the vison.  maybe that vision has to be written and shared to take us to the next level. 

    sorry if i have digressed too far from your post, sitting in a café in the mission in SF this is what your great post made me feel like sharing today.

  • BY Daniel Ben-Horin

    ON April 8, 2012 11:32 AM

    Thanks again, for this wonderful conversation.

    I want to the Golden States Warriors game last night, (NBA basketball). Free $125 tickets, courtesy of friend, but I bought the beers and world’s worst noodle/chicken something for us both…- $75 total. The experience of watching a ‘game’ is packaged inside a sort of mini-Las Vegas experience - 2 minute floor shows at each commercial break, bumping and grinding “Warrior Girls”, trampoline-enhanced dunking, fans competing to make a layup after being spun around ten times quickly so they can’t even stand up, pizza giveaways to those who cheer the loudest, free Jamba juice coupons if the Warriors score 100 and much more.

    In this context, I just reread Chris Worman’s comment, “youth may be driving an outright hack on our concept of civil society.”

    I don’t want to overstate. If there’s one thing every political boomer of the 60’s should have tattooed across his forehead, it is: “There weren’t as many of us as we thought.” G.W. Bush was a boomer too, and when we were old enough to vote, Ronald Reagan was elected twice, the second time in the biggest landslide ever. So I don’t think CROS in Romania, or Campus Party (Juan Negrillo who posted above is the coordinator of Campus Party U.S.A.
    http://www.campus-party.org/USA_Home.html
    and
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-benhorin/the-kids-are-alright-camp_b_1105795.html?ref=technology)
    or Social Hackathan in Warsaw
    http://netsquared.org/blog/alicja-peszkowska/social-hackathon-education-warsaw
    (which Alicjia Peszkowska helps coordinate, both as part of and in addition to her work for Fundacja TechSoup) or even, for that matter the Arab Spring…..I don’t think all of these yet add up to sea change in sensibility sufficient to drive ” an outright hack on our concept of civil society.”

    But are we moving that way? Lots of the people at that Warrior game simply cannot afford those confiscatory prices for what is, fundamentally, soulless crap.  Yes, they had a good time—I don’t think there is a more fun sporting experience on earth than watching NBA players in the flesh—but binge drinking or snorting coke is also a good time (I have read) at the time. Juan wrote above, “i have the strong feeling that more and more people all over the world -and a greater number amongst the youngest- are now working with this common and somewhat unspoken ideal of a better world -one with less violence and more justice, respect and work for others’ well being as much as for ourselves’-.  we are many with many unique ideas that may seem isolated and technology is not only enabling them but may also connect them by what they have in common, that is the vison.” I really think that Juan has nailed the big issue and that it is this vision that is, perhaps, a happier version of Yeats’ “rough beast” which
    “its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    The Warriors’ game is fun but there are other ways to have fun, ways that aren’t blindly consumptionist and bring us together toward shared goals. I do think more and more youth are reaching for those new ways,  even as youth are the target purchasing demographic for the old ways. 

    Meanwhile, back in the world of supporting the change, I am struck by the apt comment above from Victoria Vrana of the Gates Foundation, “I don’t think people are always clear about when they are using measurement and data to “sense-make” vs. “case-make”.  Totally different set of measurement tools and skills needed. We need to be very informed and focused about what types of data, measurement, and evaluation we need for the stage of the intervention.”

  • Lucky Gunasekara's avatar

    BY Lucky Gunasekara

    ON April 8, 2012 02:29 PM

    Hi Daniel,

    I could not agree more - being scrappy vs being strategic and maker vs manager are some of the key tensions in any startup. I think being scrappy is the key to engaging with the communities you’re serving, feeling and understanding the problems they’re faced with, and McGuyver-ing a disruptive (bias - technology driven) solution. There’s no way you can strategic plan your way to that.

    But after you have concrete proof that your McGuyver solution works - and Lean Startup metrics can definitely help measure that - you’ve got to invest time, energy and money into making sure you have the capacity to scale and consistently deliver a high-quality amazing service with a solid team. But if you’re a scrappy maker and you’re confronted with that set of decisions, it can feel like an MBA tie is being noosed around your neck to turn you into a manager with an interminable series of planning meetings ahead. 

    I think the answers to resolving some of these tensions lie in technology and a new philosophy of management. It’s an afterthought today, but a great deal of Google’s success comes from the incredible amount of resources it has poured into having stellar engineering behind its products and ample support from its legion of data centers and miles of fiber. Technology has also rapidly helped organizations big and small streamline and accelerate a great number of the functions that used to mandate meetings and paperwork. And more and more startups - especially ones with a young leaders at their helm - are turning to an open management structure and philosophy that emphasize speed and a meritocracy of ideas over bureaucracy and micromanagement. I think it will be interesting to see how these tensions play out, and I hope we can learn from the successes and failures as we mentor and engage with the next generation of social entrepreneurs grappling with the social issues of our time.

    Cheers,

    Lucky

  • Great post. I tend to think that there is a continuum - we all want to effect change in the world and the way we get there is our strategy. Scrappy is a strategy for those who lacks the capital, evaluation metrices, and logical frameworks to be more strategic about change. 

    At Meedan we have been working with a set of scrappy friends in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and environs for the last six years. Their scrappiness seems pretty strategic - all disclaimers about the complexity and uncertainty of the revolutions considered they remain the defining events of this generation.  And I do not feel it is coincidental that many of the key actors in these revolutions came from the open source software community. The values of open source and the clear benefits of open systems that are evident to anyone who groks what Linux has meant to the world, was as much a driver for the revolutions as the societal malaise brought on by the non-geeks ( http://mubaraklookingatthings.tumblr.com/ ) in power.

    So, I am excited about the potential for scrappy to ride on the coattails of the strategic crowd - but not in a way that exposes them to great logical framework templates, rather the sort of collaboration and networking that Daniel and his colleagues are doing - getting the scrappy revolutionaries in a room with the AKDN folks to talk about having the hardware and bandwidth to rock educational revolutions through Open Education Resources - or having the resource to serve open mapping data for applications that allow citizens to communicate more efficiently with their governments. 

    There is a recipe here which involves open data, open code, and access to the movers shakers needed to provide access to important data and infrastructure. This is where It takes networks like Ashoka and orgs like Techsoup to connect the visionaries with the NGOs and govs that have access to the data, the bandwidth, and the networks needed to scale big and open ideas.

     

     

  • BY Celeste Mergens

    ON April 22, 2012 05:13 PM

    Great post!  Days for Girls International has focused on being scrappy while holding onto being strategic.  The risk was giving way all of our materials, empowering results regardless of what organization receives “credit”. It has been successful and yet it still feels like a tightrope at times when you leverage results over the traditional proprietary ownership.  However, we are seeing shifts in our sphere of influence that we do not believe would be as large if not for our fearless focus on being scrappy for the sake of our goal. It’s an experiment in cause over control… And it’s working.

  • Sachin Malhan's avatar

    BY Sachin Malhan

    ON May 1, 2012 01:01 PM

    What an incredible discussion this has spun into! I was particularly impressed with Vlad’s clarity of thought - indeed, the resources are largely locked up behind the more senior generations and the ground understand and energy to use them is with the younger lot who know the zeitgeist and the tools.

    I was at a talk by the CEO of Gallup where he spoke of separating innovation and entrepreneurship and i felt that while the baby boomers / senior generations cannot play a huge role in innovation they CAN support entrepreneurship by making available the right resources and by using their macro-perspectives to aggregate, accelerate etc.

  • BY Daniel Ben-Horin

    ON May 3, 2012 04:43 PM

    Speaking of generations in collision, you might want to take a look at a post I just put up on Huffington Post
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-benhorin/new-olympic-competition-h_b_1475614.html

    The prior generation, in this case, is represented (at its worst, I might add) by the International Olympics Committee’s maniacal protection of the sacrosanct Olympic 2012™ brand. As I say in the post:

    “What is happening in London, I think, is that the IOC is worrying about precisely the wrong thing. They are worrying about 36 pretty women in short orange dresses engaging in ambush marketing (link). What they should be worrying about is that their approach of ‘sanctioned branding, uber alles’ is spitting in the face of an angry, empowered and increasingly activist generational cohort.”

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