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Archive for August, 2010

Technology is constantly changing the way our world works. Historically, its uptake has been most evident in the nonsocial sectors. However, the social sector is increasingly recognizing the power of technology to foster innovation and solve society’s more difficult problems.

            This applies in particular to four clusters of technologies with high potential and relevance for social transformation: environmental technologies (wind power, solar power, hydro power, and clean water), health technologies (accessible and affordable health-care solutions), robotics (rehabilitation and socially assistive robotics), and info-communications (from back office applications to social media).

                However, technology is a tool that can also be abused. To harness the full value of technology, its use should be properly planned and integrated with the processes and the people upon whom it impacts. 

Technology is constantly changing the way our world works. Historically, its uptake has been most evident in the nonsocial sectors. However, the social sector is increasingly recognizing the power of technology to foster innovation and solve society’s more difficult problems.

            This applies in particular to four clusters of technologies with high potential and relevance for social transformation: environmental technologies (wind power, solar power, hydro power, and clean water), health technologies (accessible and affordable health-care solutions), robotics (rehabilitation and socially assistive robotics), and info-communications (from back office applications to social media).

                However, technology is a tool that can also be abused. To harness the full value of technology, its use should be properly planned and integrated with the processes and the people upon whom it impacts.

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Growing social needs and other factors are creating a leadership deficit in the nonprofit sector. Many solutions are being worked on to increase the quantity and quality of nonprofit leaders.

                However, the world needs, above all, leaders who can lead transformational change in their organizations and the social sector. Many social issues of the day require transformative change, rather than mere social remedies.

                Transformative leaders need to be able to address the challenges of the new environment and cultural change with appropriate leadership strategies. Two new sources of such leaders hold promise: business leaders who are crossing over into truly problem-solving philanthropy, and social entrepreneurs engaged in pattern change.

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In the past decade, charity laws in many jurisdictions around the world have been subject to review.

            In the ensuing debate, fundamental questions have been raised about the role and workings of the regulator. The adjustments being made, and major charity law reforms in several jurisdictions, are resulting in regulators and regulations that are more in tune with the happenings in the charity world.

                However, the law will always, by necessity, struggle to keep pace with modern-day challenges such as increasing public service delivery by charities, new forms of social financing vehicles, the need to prevent charities from being a conduit for terrorism financing, and cross-border philanthropy.

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Government seeks to maximize the well-being of its citizens. The social sector has the same ultimate objective but it, and the multifarious stakeholders who seek to give it voice, may not always be seen by government to have the same agenda.

The attitude of government toward nonprofit organizations affects how it calibrates the conduct of its key functions of funder, promoter, regulator, and player. Government may view nonprofits alternately as “friend,” “filler,” or “foe,” depending on the time, circumstances, and organizations involved.

While government wields power and authority, it can seek to harness the power of the nonprofit sector through an affirmative approach that recognizes the mutuality of objectives. Such an affirmative government is marked by a whole-of-government and citizen-centric approach to decisions and interactions, recognition of the public good that nonprofit organizations provide, an agenda of social inclusion for citizen empowerment, and collaborative governance of the community and its constituents.

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The media has long been known as a gatekeeper of information with a disproportionate influence over its audience. It therefore needs to be responsible in its role of news communicator, advocate, watcher, and participant.

            The major trend in the changes taking place within the media industry is the emergence of alternative media (online news, blogs, and social media) that are competing with traditional media forms (print, radio, and television). Alternative media can be a challenge and a boon to nonprofit organizations as a result of the increase in delivery channels, brevity of content, user-created content, and new leveraged opportunities.

                Neither the mainstream nor alternative media has done justice to the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship, social enterprises, and social innovation. The time is ripe for the media cultivation of a turnaround society, starting with the creation of an online integrated platform that can energize the community of these transformative movements.

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Corporate social responsibility(CSR) plays a vital role in ensuring that corporate interests align with the broader social and environmental interests of the community in which businesses operate.

            However, the basis for CSR and what it entails is not well agreed among the players in the economy. A fundamental question is: Is CSR about good business or necessary ethics?

                There are different approaches to ensuring the take-up of CSR: from encouraging moral capitalism (such as celebrating corporate heroes) and discouraging brute capitalism (such as identifying and shaming corporate abuse), to mandating it through rules and regulations. Two new approaches—reporting companies’ CSR practices to investors, and potentially quantifying nonfinancial CSR variables—show great promise.

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For many individuals, the act of volunteering lies at the core of being human. For volunteer host organizations (VHOs), volunteers provide the much-needed manpower and community engagement to fulfill their missions effectively.

                However, there is a mismatch in the volunteer labor market. Volunteers struggle to be placed, and VHOs struggle to find enough of the right volunteers. This mismatch has to be solved at two levels. At the market level, there needs to be more and better market information, brokering, and clearing mechanisms for the supply and demand of volunteers. At the participant level, VHOs must recognize the volunteer market realities, and develop and implement strategies to raise, manage, and retain volunteers.

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