Tackling Complexity

No Man Is An IslandThe Challenge of Complexity

I am facing the challenge of complexity in helping to build an initiative  in York Region (a region of nine municiaplities with over 1 million residents north of Toronto) called communityBUILD.   Our social mission is to support the growth of social enterprises focused on generating lasting impact on two grand challenges:  youth unemployment and food insecurity.

My challenge is that I know that social entrepreneurs are only part of the solution for these complex and endemic issues.  We can’t achieve impact without broadening our scope beyond social entrepreneurs and support a group of individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets to work collectively to tackle the issues.  This group would bring the culture, the perspective and knowledge of non-profits, for-profits and co-operatives that share the same mission.

Collective Impact

Collective Impact is one approach that we are applying to communityBUILD.  It is especially resonent because the initiative was founded by four partner organizations, long before we were aware of the concept of Collective Impact.

To educate myself, I recently attended a day-long workshop about Collective Impact in Guelph, Ontario put on by the Tamarack Institute in Waterloo, Ontario.  Check them out, they do excellent work in helping people to collaborate, co-generate knowledge and achieve collective impact on complex community issues.  The subject matter was .  This is a methodology relevant to social entrepreneurs because of it seeks to generate substantial social impact through collective community action.

Collective Impact is one way a social entrepreneur can bring together individuals and organizations to contribute over the long term to the achievement of social mission.  After all, real social impact is very difficult for any one organization to achieve because social issues are riven with complexity.  To try to get your arms around them is like going down the proverbial rabbit-hole.


The Value of Partnerships

The complexity faced by an entrepreneurs, especially at start-up, does not require a Collective Impact initiative but itcalls out for the development of key partnerships.   At start-up you have so few resources and you don’t possess all the skills, networks and experience you need to get off the ground.  You need to work with other organizations to add to your capabilities.

Carefully selected, negotiated and nurtured partnerships that fit your culture, mission and strategic objectives will be mutually reinforcing.  They bring many benefits:

  • Faster to Market
  • Broader product offering
  • More efficient use of capital
  • Unique customer knowledge or expertise
  • Access to brand
  • Access to new markets
  • Access to networks

Whether you are founding a technology company or an employment-focused social venture, you cannot be an island unto yourself.


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