Tapping Biz Skills for Social Change

A persistent and long term stereotype about prospective social change agents depicts them as well meaning, idealistic do gooders who often lack street smarts and experience with the rough and tumble of the competitive 'for profit' world.

As a result, a lot of people dismiss the non profit world as largely inefficient and ineffective and a poor place to invest time and money.

Well, we have no problem being thought of as well meaning, idealistic do gooders! Nor do the most effective social change agents we've run across. We'd like to see more idealism and an even more widespread drive to bring about critically needed change.

But like most stereotypes and generalities, these two do have some truth to them.

Too many efforts at social change struggle due to a lack of experience, and far too many non profits are run poorly. Part of our motivation in starting Visions Made Viable was to help address those weaknesses in the non profit sector by putting new efforts for social change on a solid footing right from the start.

In spite of those weaknesses in elements of the non profit world, though, we think the stereotypes and generalities are increasingly misguided and mistaken.

Over the past ten years or so a sea change of sorts has come over the non profit community. Critics have demanded that non profits be managed more like effective for profit businesses, with a greater accountability to their stakeholders and to getting their mission done far more efficiently. And increasingly, the non profit world has responded. Non profits around the world are being led more effectively and are making a difference more profoundly than ever before .

Leading that change have been thousands of people with a decade or more of experience in the business world who have decided to invest their business experience and skills into non profit efforts. In some instances, social entrepreneurs are combining for profit efforts and non profit efforts into a potent combination for change.

The idea of taking business skills and experience into new non profit efforts is close to our hearts. One of our co-founders is a business consultant in Orange County, California. He came up with the original idea for Visions Made Viable because, as he put it, 'I want to use my business and administrative knowledge and skills to support social entrepreneurs and change agents.'

The project director for our South China Project, Nhung Li (not her real name) spent 10 years working as a software designer in the highly entrepreneurial Silicon Valley. Nhung is now putting those experiences and skills to use developing businesses in China that create employment and also financially underwrite her social change efforts.

Part of our goal at Visions Made Viable is to encourage people with experience in the business community to create new non profit efforts.

If you're one of those people, and you've been considering tackling some significant non profit challenge, we'd love to hear from you.