Disruption for Social Good

with Renee Kaplan

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Equilibrium Change

How to measure your impact

Renee Kaplan

Chief Strategist, Change Maker, Impact Investment Expert

Lessons Learned

Social entrepreneurs should not aim for scale but rather making the biggest measurable impact.

Look at the current status quo and think about how to move the dial using your innovation.

It is easy to get lost in the complexity of the issues at hand. Concentrate on your vision.


Lesson: Disruption for Social Good with Renee Kaplan

Step #8 Equilibrium Change: How to measure your impact

Scale can mean a lot of different things. It can mean great reach. But if the quality of that reach is not effective, then you're not helping crack open or solve a big problem.

For us, it's not just about the scale or reach of a particular innovation of an organization. We really look for what we call equilibrium change and that's just a fancy way of saying what is the status quo now? What, if we apply this innovation, if we help that innovation grow via partnerships and ecosystem support, what is the new status quo, and how do we sustain that new status quo?

That status quo could be a way a village is operating on the ground and has been for many, many years but it really is about ending a human rights abuse within that village that then could spread. Or it could be a massive change in the way fisheries are being tracked and illegal fishing is being done.

For us, it's not just about scale, but it is about that status quo sustainability. It has to be enough that it's not just a one example in one place, but can it be duplicated in other places? Can it grow? Can it really be something that scales to change a broader status quo?

Often in philanthropy you can get lost. These issues are so complex. The challenges are so great. The funding is always never enough. So how do you focus in on the right investments that really do have the best chance to succeed and how do you take enough risk that's a reasonable or informed risk along the way?

For us, the equilibrium change means really understanding the current status quo. As we look at social entrepreneurs who are doing, again, groundbreaking, disruptive work, they've looked at a problem from a very unique angle. They haven't said, "Oh, we need to solve this particular health issue in a standard way." They've said, "This whole system is broken. We can do something radically different that could shake everything up and make it better."

The current status quo and the beneficiaries in that model, there's something keeping it in that status quo or in that state. It might be corruption. It might be the markets. It may be just cultural beliefs and behaviors. How can we look at that disruption from a social entrepreneur able to say, "Okay, we're cracking things open a bit. This is our vision of where the new status quo is"?

We're already seeing progress. We're seeing a pull of this innovation or of this traction. Whether it's ending child marriage, where today it's a very deep global problem, we're seeing a lot of activism around that right now. We're saying, "Okay, the new status quo would be there is no child marriage." What would that look like? What would need to be changed?

For us, that is where we get excited about concentrating on a vision, talking about the solution, not just the problem, but the new way of being, if you will, and what different roles the sectors can take on to make sure it's sustainable.

There are, I think, many examples over history that have looked at it. The hard part is sustaining it. It can't just be one policy change that you bet on or one particular innovation on the ground in one place. It has to be an ecosystem approach.

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