Toward an Open-Solution Society

Professor Greg Dees gave this TED-style talk as part of CASE’s 10th anniversary celebration in December 2012.

Why should we care about social entrepreneurship? Why does it matter?

According to CASE Founder Greg Dees, it is not just about making money while doing good. Nor is it just about helping nonprofits be more business-like.  “It’s a matter of survival” and we must create an open-solution society that uses all of its talents and assets to solve social problems in creative ways.

Dees’s premise is that we live in an adaptive society – one in which we must adjust and change over time in order to be successful.  And he believes that social entrepreneurs are critical to this concept.  They represent the many people on the ground finding creative, alternative ways to solve problems, creating new ventures, experimenting with new solutions and adapting to what works and what doesn’t.

But here’s the rub … 

These social entrepreneurs do not stand alone and must have support structures in place. Dees stated that “without that support structure what we are going to end up with is a lot of fragmented solutions that don’t add up to long term social impact.”

For CASE’s first 10 years, we were focused on helping to build the field of social entrepreneurship, helping individual social ventures grow, learning from their successes and failures, helping them to scale.

For the next 10 years, Dees calls on CASE and other institutions to broaden the research agenda and help to build the environment around social entrepreneurs, including the support structures that are already emerging, e.g., B Corporations, impact investing, organizations that are carefully evaluating the kind of social impact being claimed, and others.

In summary, Dees calls for an open solution society with strong institutions that:

  1. Stimulate on-going exploration (allowing and encouraging the innovative solutions, testing and experimentation that is being led by social entrepreneurs).
  2. Systematically evaluate the efforts (what is working and what is not?).
  3. Capture and share lessons learned (continuing to study and learn from these social entrepreneurs, building frameworks and best practices that can be replicated).
  4. Scale impact strategically (picking the kinds of things that work, understand how and why and where they work, and realizing when there may be better things that we should switch to for greater impact).
  5. Direct resources adaptively (the world changes and we need to change with it).

To hear more from Professor Dees on this topic, view his talk in it’s entirety below: