Social Ventures as Learning Laboratories

Announcing a new publication from Greg Dees: “Social Ventures as Learning Laboratories” in Tennessee’s Business (Vol 20, No 1, May 2011). This publication was originally written for a special edition of Innovations distributed at the 2009 World Economic Forum meeting but was recently updated and re-published.

In this article, Greg Dees argues that, in the wake of the financial crisis, we need “entrepreneurship that creates greater long-term value while drawing on fewer resources and generating fewer destructive consequences”.  Financial pressures cause social problems to become even more pressing, and social entrepreneurs can help put us back on a path to inclusive prosperity.  Dees argues that social entrepreneurs serve as learning laboratories for society – they develop, test, and refine innovative solutions in ways that established organizations (with inherent biases, bureaucracy, cultures and commitments) cannot do as effectively.

In the end, Dees makes a case that we should “actively foster a vibrant learning laboratory of social entrepreneurs, assess the results of these experiments, support the scaling or replication of high-leverage ventures (those that promise greater social impact per unit of financial investment), and collaborate with efforts to capture and share knowledge along the way.”