It's Good to be Alive Today!

I am still on the Skoll high

Just back from my week in Oxford with my head buzzing and Michael Franti's social change anthem "Good to be Alive Today" ringing in my ears. It's hard to explain why this is the one conference a year I always make the time for. It's a powerful mix of inspiration, singing, ideas and most importantly, peer brainstorming.  I have more than a year's worth of ideas for social good. Let me share just a few!

Systems Entrepreneurship is on the Rise

Jeff Walker has been making the case for what he calls "systems entrepreneurship" at Harvard's Kennedy School, Skoll and in a new SSIR article. He uses examples such as the campaign to eliminate malaria to demonstrate we need a new class of backbone organizations (borrowing from the collective impact concept identified by FSG) who are around organizing larger scale systems change with an ecosystem of players, as opposed to setting out as one organization to make the change single-handedly.

This resonated with me at a very powerful level, because that's what I want to do in helping bring software and data for social good to the world's most important needs.  Betsy Beaumon, Benetech's President, and the rest of our team have been working on what is the next big innovation is at Benetech beyond scaling up our current successful social enterprises.  We started that thinking last year with thinking of Benetech as the Equilibrium Change Machine, based on Sally Osberg's book "Getting Beyond Better." Betsy and I had some great brainstorms about large scale systems change at Skoll and there's a lot more exciting thinking to be done.  Expect to hear more about the software for social good revolution!

The CTO Gap

The lack of strategic technology expertise is hobbling many of the efforts to make the world a better place.  In larger organizations, this is the role of the Chief Technical Officer.  It's different from the IT manager or CIO (Chief Information Officer): it's how technology can fundamentally change the dynamic in your enterprise.

Betsy and I went from meeting to meeting (occasionally even together!) playing the role of CTO-for-an-hour to so many of the world's most innovative social entrepreneurs.  Not only did we realize the scale of the talent gap, but we also walked away with dozens of good ideas for how software for social good could have huge impact.

Just have to find some money to do something about that.

But there's More

Engaging with my peer social entrepreneurs, I heard much more than just their technical requirements. They are worried about failure, because of how important their work is to the people most in need.  They are worried about letting down their families, because of how all-consuming the work is.

It is a reminder of how important programs that bring social entrepreneurs together to share both their aspirations and their stresses, and get recharged for the many fights ahead.  Programs like the Wellbeing Project and Tendrel, and events like those organized by the Skoll and Schwab Foundations, are hugely beneficial compared to the costs involved.

It lifted my heart to spend a week being inspired, singing, dancing, commiserating, while some of the world's most innovative social entrepreneurs were plotting together to make the world a much better place!


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