Social Entrepreneurs Must Be Proactive, Author Says

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Designer, entrepreneur, and author Matt Manos argues that social entrepreneurs need to spend more time thinking about the problems of the future and less time stuck on “post-traumatic innovation.” Pick any social enterprise and it’s almost always a reaction to a past event.

People design new kinds of sustainable shelters after a refuge crisis. A good example is the sustainable tent created by Abeer Seikaly or the portable shelter being built for refugees by Ikea. Both are brilliant solutions inspired by events that have already happened. “What if social enterprise was also responsible for preemption?” Manos asks in the manifesto found at the center of his new book, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise. “What if social entrepreneurs were also futurists?”

Matt Manos book for the social entrepreneurs

Manos has pioneered a new structure for his design firm. Half of the time he works for paying clients and half the time he donates his time to social enterprises. Dividing his time in that fashion helps him see clearly the differences between the two. “At times, what is super obvious in the private sector has just never been mentioned in the social sector and vice versa,” he says.

“When you think about startup clients, a lot of the themes in this book are incredibly obvious to them — that it’s important to invest in future trends, to be thinking about strategic foresight. But when you look at a social enterprise, it [almost always] was launched in reaction or response to something that happened in the past.” Manos suggests preparing for natural disasters that are predictable before they happen.

As an example, he asks what will happen when more jobs are lost to automation — not just the issue of income, but how lives will change. “Artificial intelligence, to me, is just a mind-blowing gold mine of stuff that social entrepreneurs and nonprofits are rarely tackling,” says Manos. “When jobs are automated, people will have more time on their hands. They’ll have more issues with drug abuse. They’ll have issues of self-worth and value, and that might lead to mental illness or suicide . . . that’s just one of many emerging issues.”

His book argues that organizations should imagine ideal futures and work backward from there. “We have entered a time in which we lack the capability to foresee what technological advancements and capabilities will take place in the next four years,” Manos writes. “So how do we, as designers, understand the future of markets, and the future of business design? We make it up.”

A short collection of essays and tools, the book is an attempt to help social entrepreneurs start thinking as futurists. Manos’s small design firm also now has a futures wing to help clients do the same thing. “We’re constantly helping people launch new services and products, and there’s kind of this question of what it’s all for,” he says. “For me, the future is a great cause to invest in.”

The book is available for digital download on a pay-what-you-want basis; or readers can order a print copy for $25.00.

Source: Fast Co-Exist


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