Community Organizations and the State of Social Change

Across Canada, changemakers, advocates, policy wonks – collectively known to us as shift disturbers – are working hard at the community level to disrupt systems (and the status quo) in the pursuit of social change. We had the fortune to meet many of these shift disturbers over the past year in our CKX City Series, with stops in Halifax, Vancouver and Montreal. Each event was a fast-moving, grassroots-oriented series of flash-fire presentations from local shift disturbers in each community. Bringing unlikely suspects together from all sectors and walks of life to share knowledge and create change is what CKX does best.

We also took the opportunity to learn from these change agents, at the events and afterwards through a survey we conducted in collaboration with our CKX City Series partner Manulife Asset Management. The findings, as highlighted in the infographic below, explored some of the recent past and anticipated future key challenges facing people who are driving social change:

1. The role of government and shifts in public policy were by far the biggest concern in recent years and expected to remain so. Thirty-two percent of all respondents saw this as the main challenge.

2. Rapid technological change saw the biggest jump as the perceived top challenge – from 10% of respondents who saw it as the top challenge in recent years to 15% who expected it to be the top challenge in the future. This isn’t surprising given the pace of technology change, the time-savings that can be had when you’re in touch with the right technology… and conversely how much productivity, money and even opportunity can be lost without it. So much has changed for the philanthropy, charity and social change sectors in the past few years, from the pervasiveness of social media and optimization of mobile devices to the relatively new concept of rapid response granting and the need to be nimble as social and environmental emergencies suddenly arise.

3. It was encouraging that the challenge of finding and keeping engaged and qualified staff and volunteers saw the biggest drop in level of concern when comparing past experience to future outlook.

4. Securing stable funding for social change work was another challenge expected to grow in future. Manulife Asset Management recently wrote about this very challenge being faced by the community foundation network in this article that covers present investment challenges and ideas around solutions.

5. As a side note on funding, Caroline Fiennes wrote about how the recipients of funds are increasingly scrutinized, whereas the effectiveness of donors is not. In her words, “Funders are rarely punished for under-performing and usually don’t even know when they are: if the work that they fund helps one child but could have helped ten, that ‘opportunity cost’ is felt by the would-be beneficiaries, not by the funder.” Let’s consider how we can improve on the impact feedback loop.

6. Among the fundamental shifts survey respondents wanted to see in their social change work was more engagement between the government and social sector. Known in Britain as “The Third Way”, this has seen interest, research and undertaking in Canada too. For those interested in learning more, including “pre-conditions” for successful government-social sector relations, this paper on deliberate relationships is a good read.

The driving principles behind our work are to help people do good better and invest in more smart and caring communities. We salute our shift disturbers and partners for all your efforts, and look forward to uniting again for future collaborations. May some of these insights and readings further guide your work.

 

 

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