Monday, February 03, 2014

"The Solution Revolution" by Eggers and MacMillan from Deloitte Public Sector

Authors: William D. Eggers and Paul MacMillan

Title: “The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government and Social Enterprises Are Turning Up to Solve Society’s Toughest Problems

Publication: 2013: Boston, Harvard Business Review Press, ISBN 978-1422191191, Introduction and seven chapters, 292 pages, hardcover  The authors are directors at Deloitte Public Sector.
Amazon link
The authors trace how business professionals and entrepreneurs are applying capital formation and marketing techniques, and quantitative measurements, all from the business world, for humanitarian projects and to promote sustainability.

The largest philanthropists, many of whom like Bill Gates came from Silicon Valley, are indeed leading the way in bringing a higher standard of living to the developing world, hopefully in a way that is more sustainable.  That’s important because the world can’t afford for everyone to do what China is doing now.

The authors talk about “disruptive technologies” that center mainly around the Internet, which have rerouted our channels of socialization, rather than simply eliminating them (which is what we first thought).
The idea of alternative exchange currencies is important, and that’s not merely about bitcoin.  It’s about trading potentially damaging consumption credits (like carbon), or about other ways of measuring value.  A good example that the authors don’t mention directly is simply work credits, as often practiced by “intentional communities”, where people agree to live together in a moneyless environment (internally) but have to keep track of labor spent.  In that kind of world, all real labor has to be equally valued as to time.  
But sometimes work credits are still traded. (See my review of “Twin Oaks” in Virginia, April 7. 2012). 
Crowdfunding is discussed, as a way to raise money for enterprises that earn public sympathy or popularity.  This is sometimes done to make certain independent films (as with Kicjstarter), although there has to be a lot of public support for the worthiness of the subject for it to work. 

Another area where technology solutions have worked has occurred with enabling people to share physical resources, like cars or homes.  The simpler idea may be like Zipcar (appealing to people living in major cities where keeping your own car is expensive), but allowing others to rent your car or home while you are away has become more popular, but requires more care and attention on the part of participants.  (It is sort of like the ultimate form of time-sharing). 

Innovative solutions really come into play with microfinance, and with helping people build housing for themselves quickly in developing areas (Brazil, India and Thailand are discussed in the book).  In this regard, even Habitat for Humanity sounds relatively inefficient.  But the Amish will tell you that too much efficiency isn;t so good. 

See also “Likeonomics”, Dec. 19, 2012.  

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