How to Build A Healthy Economy: Ron Schultz
An excerpt from Ron Schultz’s most recent book – Creating Good Work—The World’s Leading Social Entrepreneurs Show How to Build A Healthy Economy
If social entrepreneurs are in the business of creating deliberate disruptive design to solve pressing social issues, it is imperative to understand why the changes they seek to bring about succeed and why so many fail.
About a decade ago, my colleague and mentor, Howard Sherman, had introduced what was in essence “a theory of business action” that described how change takes place. It was amazingly concise and we had written about it in a book we had produced together. It was known as “principles, models, rules, and behaviors.”
The concept was simple: principles were ideas that because of their nature rarely if ever changed. Models were what we built to emulate principles. Rules were those things we put in place to maintain the model and guide behaviours; and behaviours were what we did to live the principles, based the on the models we built and the rules that governed them.
It remains that if we cling to outdated principles—no matter how clever our models—we change nothing. If we change our principles and our models, but still cling to old rules, our behaviors don’t change, and we change nothing. If we change our principles, models, and rules, but keep our old behaviors in place, as had been the case during prohibition, things not only change according to the new design, they can get much worse.
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Ron Schultz has collected the wisdom of over a dozen leaders in social entrepreneurship in his latest book, “Creating Good Work—The World’s Leading Social Entrepreneurs Show How to Build A Healthy Economy.” Written by the minds behindBenetech, BRAC USA, Root Capital, SecondMuse,Share Our Strength, and YouthBuild, Schultz says the chapters come together to form a “bible for social entrepreneurship.”
Q: Why a compilation? You’ve been involved in this space for a long time now. Why not write it in your voice, threading all these stories together?
A: Each of them has their own expertise, their own knowledge and their wisdom. When you combine that together, there is a tremendous ability to make things work. These people know what they’re doing and I want it to be about the industry, something that would inform the industry. It’s not about me. I don’t have all the answers. It’s about them—their wisdom.
Many of these individuals were friends, people that I’ve known for a long time since I’ve been a part of this community. Some of them were people that I admired—Dorothy Stoneman of YouthBuild USA, for example. I think she’s brilliant. Billy Shore, who runs Share Our Strength, is another. Eighty percent of the people that I asked said yes immediately. I didn’t really have to fish for it.
So, the book goes from theory to application to practice. For me it was more about organizing all this.
Q: What are some common threads that emerged?
A: One of them would certainly be the idea of “think bigger or go home.” Another is that this is not something that happens overnight and takes a lot of work and dedication. Thirdly, it requires someone who is a true believer, who puts their heart and soul into it, aside from just the hard work. And lastly, it’s about relationships, relationships, relationships.
Collaboration is key to making this work. I recently wrote a piece on “Rugged Collaborationism.” We’ve got to move on from the rugged individualist that John Locke championed. It’s brought down so much of society. The era of Davey Crockett-ism has to end. We have to see ourselves as ruggedcollaborationists.
Q: What does the social enterprise ecosystem still lack?
A: Well for one, it’s still lacking awareness, given that only a small portion know about it. It’s also disparate—it doesn’t have a singular identity. I don’t know if it needs to have one necessarily.
Also, this perspective of scalability has not really worked in the best interest of social entrepreneurship. Scalability is a real industrial age term. It doesn’t really capture the complexity of the relationships involved in these enterprises.
We should look at replicating models. And they have to be applied according to the environment, the culture, the surroundings. It’s not just about scaling up but replicating with the local system in mind.
Q: So, the “one size doesn’t fit all” idea, right?
A: Right. We have systems that can accommodate change but we have to be willing to change. Right now, we have systems that have artificial barriers. We need to open up those boundaries.
Q: An example would be . . .
A: The economic meltdown is a great example of where there wasn’t any resilience in the system. It was too rigid and so it burst through those boundaries. We need to start realizing that you have to change the systems as well, that they ought to be evolving.
So, the key to replication is to accommodate the changes and redefine the boundaries.