How Technology Can Help Solve Societal Problems

Barry LibertMegan Beck, Brian Komar and Josue Estrada at Knowledge@Wharton: “…nonprofit groups, academic institutions and philanthropic organizations engaged in social change are struggling to adapt to the new global, technological and virtual landscape.

Legacy modes of operation, governance and leadership competencies rooted in the age of physical realities continue to dominate the space. Further, organizations still operate in internal and external silos — far from crossing industry lines, which are blurring. And their ability to lead in a world that is changing at an exponential rate seems hampered by their mental models and therefore their business models of creating and sustaining value as well.

If civil society is not to get drenched and sink like a stone, it must start swimming in a new direction. This new direction starts with social organizations fundamentally rethinking the core assumptions driving their attitudes, behaviors and beliefs about creating long-term sustainable value for their constituencies in an exponentially networked world. Rather than using an organization-centric model, the nonprofit sector and related organizations need to adopt a mental model based on scaling relationships in a whole new way using today’s technologies — the SCaaP model.

Embracing social change as a platform is more than a theory of change, it is a theory of being — one that places a virtual network or individuals seeking social change at the center of everything and leverages today’s digital platforms (such as social media, mobile, big data and machine learning) to facilitate stakeholders (contributors and consumers) to connect, collaborate, and interact with each other to exchange value among each other to effectuate exponential social change and impact.

SCaaP builds on the government as a platform movement (Gov 2.0) launched by technologist Tim O’Reilly and many others. Just as Gov 2.0 was not about a new kind of government but rather, as O’Reilly notes, “government stripped down to its core, rediscovered and reimagined as if for the first time,” so it is with social change as a platform. Civil society is the primary location for collective action and SCaaP helps to rebuild the kind of participatory community celebrated by 19th century French historian Alexis de Tocqueville when he observed that Americans’ propensity for civic association is central to making our democratic experiment work. “Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition,” he noted, “are forever forming associations.”

But SCaaP represents a fundamental shift in how civil society operates. It is grounded in exploiting new digital technologies, but extends well beyond them to focus on how organizations think about advancing their core mission — do they go at it alone or do they collaborate as part of a network? SCaaP requires thinking and operating, in all things, as a network. It requires updating the core DNA that runs through social change organizations to put relationships in service of a cause at the center, not the institution. When implemented correctly, SCaaP will impact everything — from the way an organization allocates resources to how value is captured and measured to helping individuals achieve their full potential….(More)”.