New Formula for Driving Nonprofit InnovationJune 26, 2013
In a recent opinion article published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Cynthia Gibson, a consultant to nonprofits and foundations, charges nonprofit leaders and funders to encourage vigorous critical thinking, discussion, and analysis in order to truly drive innovation. According to Gibson, “everybody in the nonprofit world talks these days about innovation, but not about what drives change: open debate and critical thinking…nonprofits and foundations continue to embrace a culture of silence and politeness that gets in the way of their growth and vitality.”
The irony of this is that in this era, organizations and individuals are embracing public feedback and critique like never before; new technologies both enable and demand this transparency.
Gibson poses several questions to consider before pronouncing the “next big new important thing:”
- Is what’s being touted as “new” really new or is it just something old with different packaging?
- Is there evidence to show that the idea has promise?
- Who’s behind the idea?
- Is the idea pitched in jargon-laden hype that suggests it can solve every problem?
- What realistic potential does the idea have of being expanded to other places?
- Does the idea take nonprofits away from their missions?
- Has the idea been designed with suggestions from the people it’s supposed to help?
- Is the goal to help an entire community? Or is it mainly to increase revenue for one group?
Gibson calls for public forums and spaces that encourage this type of critical thinking and questioning, and for leaders to not only embrace, but champion this discourse. The possible outcomes, which should align with everyone’s goals, are that “money would be used well, fewer opportunities for change would be missed, and every nonprofit and donor would do better in meeting our duty to society.”