In early 2010, wondering whether there might be a way to bring together my work in health care ethics consultation-mediation with my prior love working in product/service design for e-health ventures (social enterprises before there was a social enterprise sector), I attended Unite for Sight's annual Global Health & Innovation Conference- a fantastic event overflowing with passionate social entrepreneurs doing great work around the world.
Three questions emerged for deeper exploration:
1. Observation: Multi-stakeholder partnerships will be an increasing necessity to realize desired social impact. In traditional corporate partnerships, there are lawyers advocating for their respective clients' interests when a partnership is established. In non-profits, I surmised that failed partnerships meant an abrupt refocus and loss of the impact, since the use of donations for a lawsuit would not align with many non-profit's impact-focused missions.
Idea: A partnership builder for multi-stakeholder partnerships for social impact would mediate the negotiation among the stakeholders to optimize the interest of the partnership. The role of a partnership builder would be as advocate and nurturer of the partnership; the partnership builder would check in with the stakeholders to early troubleshoot any potential challenges and at the point of inevitable crisis, the partnership builder would mediate among the stakeholders to facilitate action and resolve disputes. With sufficient experience, a centralized resource, like creative commons for partnerships could be created, where DIY resources tools would exist for people to build their own multi-stakeholder partnerships. This preventative conflict resolution approach benefits all stakeholders and enhances the likelihood of achieving the desired impact, and would most likely be deemed a worthwhile investment by a funder- whose interest is to see the partnership goals realized.
Question(s): Would the stakeholders be interested in availing themselves of such a resource if it existed? What sort of problems, if any, are any of these stakeholders already experiencing? Would it be possible to develop a niche practice for partnership builders? What tools, skills, capacities would need to be developed to scale and democratize the practice?
2. Observations: In business every decision has implications. Working at the intersection of meaning and money, the implications of business decisions often involve the targeted social impact.
Question: Would there be an opportunity to laterally apply some of the relevant tools and learning of health care ethics (clinical and organizational) consultation-mediation in the context of the social enterprise sector? What are the relevant similarities and differences? Is the social enterprise market open and curious to receive this kind of resource or not?
3. Observation: A large amount of impact investing money is being targeted at the "bottom of the pyramid." Following the microfinance scandals, we know that sometimes these investor initiatives are not concerned about the interests of the poor. New health care products and services are being deployed in areas where there are no existing regulatory frameworks to protect the human interests generally, and the vulnerable specifically.
Question: Would there be an opportunity to work with social entrepreneurs who have health care products and services being deployed in developing markets where there are no regulatory frameworks? How might we develop robust means to protect the human interests while not stifling innovation? How can people be empowered in the process of gaining access to health care products and services?
I spent 18 months on a learning journey to explore these questions. The curriculum was emergent. I determined the course as I went along, followed serendipity and learning opportunities. I embarked on collaborations with people that persisted, some that failed. I joined networks, worked on projects and hacked conditions to enable learning. The learnings, ideas generated, connections made, unexpected discoveries and opportunities identified have iterated in conversations. Now, I am making them concrete; I will synthesize my learnings from this deep dive inquiry into a series of posts with the aim that the report out encourages others to explore, stimulates discussion and inspires action.
The topics explored cover multiple disciplines- some may be more or less relevant for the primary focus on this social enterprise focused blog. The timing coincides this month with an invitation and challenge from Steve Hopkins of the Squiggly Line- create a post for 30 days. Steve is one of the insightful, spunky people I met on the journey. He is making the world epic! Follow him on Twitter (@stevehopkins) and to follow others writing for this challenge, check out #b03 on Twitter.
#b03 [Day 1]