Communities Do, In Fact, Differ From Dollar Bills

In his book, The Fiefdom Syndrome (The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies - And How to Overcome Them), Robert J. Herbold, former Microsoft Chief of Operations, describes how self-interest undermines careers and companies. A dialogue on Social Edge explores the book’s relevance to social entrepreneurs looking to advance change in their communities. The dialogue's host, Carlos Gasca Yanez, does a great job of applying Herbold's concepts. For instance:

“Fiefdoms lack discipline” and that is how they are formed in community initiatives. Engaging the community requires a sense of openness, which aims to increase participation. In reality without thoughtful participation the loudest voices may lead to fiefdoms forming. To encourage openness and useful interaction a social entrepreneur should have a toolbox full participation and decision-making methods. One facilitator that I know uses play money as form of voting. In other words you have this budget, where would you invest it?

A community investment strategy for a local living economy is one way to engage the community. However, the idea seems so big that is un-manageable, but a good example of keeping it simple is the Seattle’s Foundation Framework for a Healthy Community. A framework provides a means to develop discipline amongst the various fiefdoms. For the social entrepreneur working with a healthy community framework can serve to prioritize their investment and energy.

I find this thread so compelling because business coverage of social entrepreneurialism so consistently misses the recognition that, while many business concepts may be fruitfully applied to social change, communities aren't dollar bills. The commonalities between business and community change may not be something you can learn from a book, but they can be learned over a lifetime in a community of peers committed to understanding them.

Susan Herr

Posted at 7:44 AM, May 06, 2008 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | High Net Worth Donors | Philanthropic Strategy | Social Entreprenuers | Permalink | Comment