Dan Pallotta says it well… “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.” He proposes that the sector is dichotomous – you can do good, but you won’t make a good living, or you can make a difference, but you won’t be celebrated or acknowledged for your personal and professional accomplishes in the same way your colleagues in the for-profit sector will be.
Pallotta speaks directly to taking risks… “when you prohibit failure, you kill innovation… [and] you can’t possibly solve large social problems.” The non-profit sector, as a whole, is at a disadvantage and cannot compete with the for-profit sector for talent, time, funding, and are held accountable for measures that are often misplaced between sectors. Pallotta continues to describe the radical shift needed in the sector to ensure complex, endemic problems that require that we, change agents, “see opportunity where other see only trouble” (Goldsmith, 2010, p. 187). Goldsmith (2010) continues suggesting that we must “use the powerful combination of hope, enthusiasm, and analytical acumen to better evaluate potential” (p. 187).
Have we accurately defined the barriers to success in creating large-scale social change? I don’t think its about change agents behaving as BOLD innovators. It’s also not about more money (here’s where Pallotta and I disagree). I think it’s about developing the core of the sector. The non-profit sector is not the for-profit sector, and required examining risk and return on investment in very different ways.
So then, how do we shift an entire sector’s thinking, behavior, and outcomes that more accurately reflect the value of dreams, changed communities, and changed lives?
For better or worse, I identify with Jackson and Parry’s description of leadership scholars… “the token dreamers, the chronic optimists and the hopeless romantics” (p. 5). I am ready to take calculated, thoughtful, and sometimes bold risks in the field, but more than that, I’d like to change the conversation.