February 20, 2020

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Shifting The Unshifting – The Course Of Social Innovation

In this third post in the series Creating Good Work, Schultz examines how real change for good really happens.


By Ron Schultz

With the publication this week of the book Creating Good Work: The World’s Leading Social Entrepreneurs Show How to Build a Healthy Economy (Palgrave Macmillan), the beginning of a new era of shifting what refuses to shift has been formally launched.

Now that may seem like a wild and unsupportable prediction of the possible, but the wisdom shared in this book by some of the foremost social innovators operating today is worth making that calculated forecast. These people are about doing, and what they are sharing is not only how they have done it, but the ideas that drive that doing, and how they are able to sustain their development.

Thought Leaders Share Lessons Learned

From the very first chapter of the book in which Craig Dunn, Associate Dean of Business at Western Washington University, lays out the driving force of social entrepreneurship – deliberate disruptive design – to subsequent chapters in which innovators like Dorothy Stone, Karen Tse, Todd Khozein, Billy Shore and a dozen more show how they have manifested this thinking to create not only a Creating Good Workthriving organization dedicated to serving others, but a healthier economy, the power of this way of doing business radiates beyond its social aspirations.

Paul Herman, another of the contributors and founder of the HIP Index, in which thousands of businesses have been rated as to how they have incorporated human impact and profit into their operations, details how those companies typically out-perform the market by 5 percent.

Deliberate Disruption Nurtures Resilience

If deliberate disruptive design is the model, then nurturing resilience becomes the hallmark. Resilience is our ability to change and allow change in others and, in doing so, not burst through the boundaries within which we operate.

It is the pliability of those boundaries to accommodate change, to shift and redirect as innovation emerges and stretches them out that marks the difference between industrial production and human interaction. Industrial production is predictable, human interaction not so much, which is why the same models that run our operations cannot always be used to work with our people. When our modus operandi is a conscious and continual shifting of the way things are done, we had best understand why change happens and why it sometimes doesn’t.

This understanding is not exclusive to social innovation.

Business is continually amazed by the failure rate of change initiatives. Employees have become increasingly skeptical about yet another round of strategic redirects because they know in another year or so, there will be yet another.

Coordinating Principles, Models and Behaviors

It is little wonder that a notion like deliberate disruptive design might bring about a reaction of, that’s innovationall well and good in the social sector, but that’s no way to run a business. Actually, it is, as long as there is a clear and conscious interaction between our principles, models, rules and behaviors. 

  • Principles: the ideal we ultimately want to accomplish in our work, in its most pristine state.
  • Models: what we construct to deliver on those principles.
  • Rules: what we put in place to make sure we adhere to the model.
  • Behaviors: what we do to execute the model within the guidelines of our rules.

When we change the model to better mirror our principles, we must always change the rules that govern behavior. If the old rules are left in place there are no new behaviors and the new model fails and nothing changes.

Comprehending How Change Happens

When behaviors can’t accommodate the new model, nothing changes.

If we change the rules and keep the old model, we simply get more of the same, and nothing shifts. Resilience is about having a system that facilitates shifting the models, rules and behaviors with every design change, deliberately disruptive, or not. It’s not magic, it’s comprehending how change happens and it applies whether we are shifting a social challenge or an organizational strategic redesign.

Social entrepreneurs recognize that in order to shift the intransigent nature of things like change managementhomelessness, poverty, poor educational processes, medical inequality, and social injustice, they have to innovate new ways of doing things. They have to build new guidelines to govern those operations and they have to shift behaviors to make them happen. They, of course, have to do that for their own ways of doing business as well.

Continuous improvement may have been a catch phrase that has echoed down from Edward Deming and his cohorts, but for any change, social or otherwise, to be implemented and effective, the resilience of the system to accommodate the process of change is imperative to success.

A Win-Win For Business and The Community

The business world sees corporate social responsibility as something that benefits the community. But perhaps there is a reciprocal benefit in what corporations can learn from social innovation.

In a time when our economy is still recovering and research and development funds are still not flowing as they once may have, the processes and operations of social entrepreneurs may provide a multifold payback for their efforts. Deliberate disruptive design isn’t simply an intelligent description, but a means to recovery that leaves in its wake a healthier economy.

It could be just the competitive edge in the business world, as well.


Creating Good Work: Bringing Good Capital Home with a Living Economy Fund

Creating Good Work: A New Series on Social Innovation by Social Innovators

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