Blueprint Research + Design, Inc.
The nonprofit sector is responsible for many of the social innovations and movements that bene-fit communities across the globe. Many of our most familiar institutions, products, and serviceswere first developed or expanded by nonprofitinstitutions, individual researchers, and the foun-dations that enabled them — from the 911emergency system and public television to plantbiotechnology and reproductive contraception.
In recent years, however, this ecosystem, whichhas nurtured widespread social change, has trans-formed and now includes other forms of enter-prises, actors, and funding models. Among theseinnovations is the rise of social entrepreneurship,as well as innovative organizational forms andemerging forms of financing.An example of one of these new pathways tochange can be found in the “locavore” food rev-olution pioneered by restaurateur Alice Waters,which has achieved great national impact. Watersand her peers have helped to change the wayAmericans think about food, operating from her platform as a commercial chef, restaurant owner,cookbook author, and public speaker. Her reachextends to schools, families, farmers’ markets, andthe entire food and beverage industry, and yet sheinstigated change not from the traditional non-profit model but by acting as the owner of a for-profit restaurant, changing the message she sent toher customers and revamping the supply chain onwhich her business relied.While Waters’ began her pioneering workthirty years ago, these days an increasing number of businesses aspire to create social change inaddition to generating revenue. The rise of thesocial entrepreneur has expanded the profile of changemakers on the social front. Change is nowdriven by a variety of sources, using a mix of unlikely tools and approaches. Just as important as business models with asocial agenda are whole new organizational formsfor generating social good. These organizations,from deliberately temporary citizens’ groups tovirtual networks of engineers and activists, tendto be problem-focused,not institutionally driven.They draw from the power of open-source creationmodels. Their life cycle issomewhat like that of aHollywood production unit, in which a group isformed to produce a movie, the film is made,distribution deals are struck, and the groupthen disbands. The easy access to low-costnetwork-building technologies has acceleratedthe rise of these temporary, issue-specific entitiesfor social change.
Changing the Ecosystem of Change
The rise of the social entrepreneurhas expanded the profile of changemakers on the social front.