Why I’m Ending Exploring the Edge

I’m sorry to say that I’ve decided to end the Exploring the Edge series of “big idea” blog posts without even publishing a single one. The intention of the series was to try to source “big ideas”, but the execution strategy, the format of guest blogs, isn’t the right fit.

We received a number of excellent submissions from readers. But the Review Committee (and although I wasn’t voting, I agree with their assessment) did not find them to be the “big ideas” we were searching for. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I continue to think that the Tactical Philanthropy community is a hot bed of fantastic thinking. But in the end, I’ve realized that big ideas don’t spring fully formed out of a single person.

While the Review Committee and I have been going back and forth about the Exploring the Edge concept and why it wasn’t working, I stumbled across this video from Steven Johnson, the author of Where Good Ideas Come From:

(click here to view the video if you are receiving this via email)

The video is excellent and makes the case that good ideas do not spring forth from any one person and at any one time, but instead are the output of a dynamic process of refinement of other ideas and our own ideas. The video also points to various periods of innovation and says that each period was supported by some sort of mechanism which assisted in the acceleration of idea exchange.

This video helped me reconcile my core belief in the vibrant idea community represented by the social sector blog community and failure of the way I designed Exploring the Edge. Rather than solicit fully formed “big ideas”, I think that we are already witnessing a period of accelerated idea exchange in the social sector due to the explosion of online conversations that have occurred in the past few years.

If a platform were developed to further increase the rate of idea exchange, I think it would need to be conversation-centric rather than idea-centric. Therefore a forum or submission and vote platform would be far better suited to the task than a guest blog post series.

It is never fun to let something you were excited about die on the vine. But it is even worse to keep pumping resources into something that is doomed to fail.

So while I’m ending the Exploring the Edge series, I’ll continue to publish occasional guest posts including some of those submitted for Exploring the Edge.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to the members of the Review Committee, who generously shared their thoughts with me as we struggled to get this off the ground.



  1. Sean, I admire your integrity. I was going to submit a piece (updated) that I wrote a few years ago that was based on the premise that we need a new “contract” between non-profits and funders. It starts (but doesn’t end) with funders committing to 100% unrestricted / operating support funding and a concurrent commitment by investees to much more robust social outcomes / impact measurement. I won’t write the whole article and its nuances here, but if anyone would like a copy of what I wrote a few years ago, I’d be glad to share it and engage in a discussion.

  2. Jon Brooks says:

    Hi Sean,

    Well done on making the brave decision. Sorry to hear this ‘big idea’ didn’t work out, but that just leaves more room for the next one!