Speaking at New Profit’s Gathering of Leaders

Next week I’ll be in Miami speaking at New Profit’s Gathering of Leaders. While I’ve often focused on New Profit’s “investing in nonprofits” approach to grantmaking, they also have an “Action Tank” that works to strengthen the ecosystem for social entrepreneurs and the environment in which nonprofit capital markets are being created.

In 2007, New Profit launched America Forward, a bi-partisan effort to work with policymakers, legislators and other leaders to encourage the deployment of public and private resources towards supporting social innovation. It was America Forward that advanced the idea of the White House’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation as well as the concept of the Social Innovation Fund, both of which have become a reality.

The Gathering will feature speakers from all sorts of backgrounds, but I’m intrigued to see that Steve Johnson is being given a prominent role.

Johnson is the author of Where Good Ideas Come From. I cited Johnson’s thinking in my post titled Philanthropy’s Period of Rapid Innovation. That post included the video below which does an excellent job of explaining the core idea of the book (note that this production style was used to similar effect by Bill Gates in conjunction with his recent annual letter).

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

Johnson was also a speaker at a TED event in Oxford where he discussed some of his ideas in more depth.

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

Johnson’s core argument is that good ideas do not spring forth from any one person or at any one time, but instead are the output of a dynamic process of refinement of other ideas and our own ideas. He points to evidence that periods of rapid innovation in various fields were supported by some sort of mechanism which assisted in the acceleration of idea exchange.

I believe that social media is acting as a platform for rapid idea exchange in the social sector. It is encouraging this rapid idea exchange that makes me advocate for transparency, for talking about failure, for the Social Innovation Fund to share all applications, and for foundation and other social sector blogs to embrace a conversational instead of a newsletter approach to blogging.