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Staff Blog: The Social Impact Ecosystem

July 24, 2014 Category: Uncategorized’s Executive Director, Dave Raible, at Impact Hub

Like most thoughtful Americans, I have dreamed for years of finding the magic formula that would end poverty, homelessness, substandard educational performance, hunger, violence, and myriad other problems in our society. That impulse led me to a career in the nonprofit world where I could attack these problems head on; I had a few successes and some very painful disappointments. Despite the best efforts of millions of people, the social problems that animated my work for decades just didn’t seem to be going away.

Although the outcomes have sometimes been discouraging, in the last couple of decades I have noticed the emergence of collaborations across sectors which seem to be turning the rules of social impact on their head. These collaborations offer great hope for the removal of barriers that have kept our fellow citizens from enjoying all of the benefits of our society. But this era of collective impact is still in its infancy.

Americans can be a generous people, but more than that we are born innovators; we’re known to break the rules. We have the capacity to engineer creative solutions to social problems by re-framing the issues, looking at them from every conceivable perspective and applying the tools of different sectors and industries.

Greater Philadelphia is rapidly becoming a hub for a collaborative movement that goes by many different names: The New, Sharing, Solidarity, or Impact Economy. This movement, or movements, is characterized by corporations beginning to see their self interest in socially responsible behavior, widespread concern for the sustainability of our economy and planet, and the emergence of cooperatives, community development corporations, and social enterprises to carry out this vision.

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More and more organizations, whether driven by market forces, the scarcity of resources, or just pure inventiveness, are disregarding the three letters after the dot in their organization’s URL and solving social problems using the principles and practices of all sectors. Businesses, nonprofits and government are all beginning to discover the shared context in which they operate to improve our society. This is what we call the “Social Impact Ecosystem.”  It is the beat we cover, and the laboratory of innovation for our readers. is the online platform for social impact in greater Philadelphia. We are anchored in the principles and practice of philanthropy and volunteerism, but we, like so many other organizations, recognize the need for new collaborative models combining the wealth-creating power of the marketplace with respect for our shared environment and recognition of the need to expand the benefits of our economy to an ever-widening circle of people. will be continue to cover the space where cross-sectoral collaborations arise out of this “ecosystem.” We invite the nonprofit, government and corporate communities, along with our socially conscious readers to return to regularly to follow the development of this movement. Expect to see illustrations of companies working together with nonprofits and government to solve social problems.

Sandra Baldino created out of a passion to include as many people as possible in the innovative work of the social good sector.  We began by telling stories of nonprofits and providing tools to make it easy for people to participate through micro-philanthropy and volunteerism.  But we couldn’t resist the pull of the collective impact of the Social Impact Ecosystem and the broader approach that it called for. Now we cover the work of all sectors, from City Hall to neighborhood cleaning events.

I began this blog with my dreams for a just, prosperous and sustainable society.  Realistically, I don’t expect to see that happen in my lifetime, or the lifetimes of my children or their children.  But I am beginning to see the contours of a future America where everyone has a real opportunity to participate. will chronicle the innovative solutions that emerge from this ecosystem, one small solution at a time, with the confidence that our work will expand the circle of people in our community who are changing the ways we solve problems.

I will end the blog with a new dream: that in time the social and economic innovations of today become the standard operating procedures of the future, and that our society will evolve to reflect the values of the Social Impact Ecosystem.

Join us for our happy hour and launch of our #phillychangers membership campaign at Impact HUB on August 13 so we can continue to provide coverage of the Social Impact Ecosystem.

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