Friday, April 19, 2013

A model for movement driven initiatives

How do you create a social change initiative?

There are a range of models out there for getting things done.  The startup model will work for many social enterprises (e.g. Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas).  A movement-building approach is great for behaviour-driven social change.  Activist and campaign techniques can leverage collective interest to influence the activity of large institutions.

I have learnt a lot from all of these fields - and continue to learn from them.  But none of them has ever been a convincing model for 'what I do' - or what I could do, or ever want to do either.

I've lamented before about the lack of an archetype for being a 'social innovator'.  I've discovered many more fields of interest, but still nothing that fits the bill.  Hell, I've even started telling people I'm setting up a consultancy.  A consultancy!?  What crap that is.  Yes, I hope in the (near) future to be paid to consult, but that's a far cry from "being a consultant".

These thoughts have recently coalesced into something that I think might just work, for me.  Not to say it is a model others should follow, but it seems promising for me.  At least, at this stage, it feels right.  That's more than I can say about any model I've sat with before.

As of... now, I'm calling it a model of 'movement driven social initiatives'.

The model goes something like this:

  1. Find a cause you care about: develop a sense of untapped potential, a problem, or the possibility for change
  2. Find allies
  3. Work with your allies to understand the space, find further allies, and opportunities to move forward
  4. Move forward 'growably' - initially with low-hanging 'MVP' initiatives, progressively with 'bigger', higher-impact and more scaleable initiatives - always with initiatives that grow the movement and the resources driving it (including your personal energy and finances!)
  5. Champion the cause, support your allies to deliver the change they are passionate about, and grow your initiative into a community and a movement
  6. Cultivate leaders to make yourself redundant before you get over it - because the first five steps are never finished
  7. Find another cause

I'm not going to blog here about this here in any more detail, but if you want me to elaborate, tell me that this is 'so 2005' and has been written about already, or especially if think this is what you (could) do - would love to hear from you.

Especially that last one.  Let's get awesome at doing this together, eh?


  1. How does behaviour change happen if you already care about the cause? Aren't you just providing a means for collectivism - action driven or community hanging out with like minded. This is nice and of value but it's not really transformational. Where's the social innovation in just gathering? Obviously part of the answer to that is what you do and I like the concept to 'growability' but movements cycle, people's energy and availability waxes and wanes, they are not reliable and only as vibrant as its most active members. Your point about getting over it is true not just for leaders but participants too. There's an article doing the rounds called Letter to a young social entrepreneur by Liam Black beginning with a great quote ' the poor are not the raw material for your salvation'. Causes are not there to serve ego and ambition, getting over it & moving on suggests that maybe you think they are. I think you need to be clear about what you're doing, helping communities - form, get stronger, revitalize, become more sustainable, function more effectively - this sounds more like what you want to do. Getting mixed up in the cause isn't a good business model. Feeling you can be part of that community and also advise it on its autopoiesis or community structure /vibrancy etc is naive and could even be perceived as professionally reckless.
    Find a cause you care about and be part of that movement as a participant but don't muddy that with your professional aspirations and identity. Keep up the high profile, and keep refining what you do but don't get mistaken as the evangelist if this is what you want to do professionally. You've been at this for over a year now, it's time to get out of the mud.

    1. You raise some valid points, but I disagree completely with the suggestion that community participation and professional life need to be separate. It's completely antithetical to my whole philosophy and approach.

      I assume you've been reading my blog for a while now... you'd be aware of my approach to community in business and in the workplace - in all sorts of contexts where people live and do things together. You can't take the community out of business. You shouldn't take the business out of community.

      Some structures can be fraught yes... but it's more damaging the philosophy that participation for a cause needs to be voluntary. And participating in causes with other people - that's community!

      And on your earlier point yes - if all anyone ever does is provide a means for collectivism, then that's very powerful stuff! Supporting collective action from intent is what enables transformation. I'm not sure I follow where you're headed on this point.