May 28, 2024

#9 - Evolving Beyond Charity Towards a Social-Purpose Sector

Our current charity ecosystem is built on donors providing resources, via intermediary foundations, into charities, and received by those in need.   It is quite linear.  It is a historic paradigm, with a significant imbalance of power, poor accountability, weak transparency, questionable inclusion + diversity, and with practically no voice or agency for those in need.

Although we have 75,000+ charities in Canada, we clearly do not have this many unique charitable missions. With so many independent charities, there must be inefficiencies, duplications, fragmented efforts, and poor synergistic collaboration.   For greater social impact, there is likely an opportunity to harmonize common efforts, leverage synergies, and find cost savings....

In my mind, I am thinking about a set of independent national “Mission Centric Agencies” (MCAs); One national “MCA” for each of the 30-50 key missions deemed most important to our communities. There could be a “Homeless MCA”, a “Food security MCA”, a “Literacy MCA”, a “Domestic Animal Protection MCA”, a “Youth Sports MCA”, and so on.  -  A simple way to determine which are of the greatest priority is to poll taxpayers and let democracy help guide what we value most.

Each “MCA” would act as a central hub as to what ‘works best’ in solving its respective unique mission.  It would conduct research and collect insights on how to best solve its mission (from around the world). It would develop a network of interested parties. It would work to disseminate best-practices specific to its unique mission, to build collaboration, and to coordinate different partners.  It would work to reduce duplication, help coordinate efforts, de-fragment, and develop a shared hub of expertise.  It is about achieving one singular harmony, while allowing organizations to continue their independence. Each MCA becomes the hub or conduit to greater impact, including impact measurement.

MCAs would be established with their own boards, and working teams.  They would need some (minimal) federal funding to ensure they were resourced to succeed.  The team would then engage any and all agents who could help solve the mission, including businesses, universities, grant-making foundations, government departments, different levels of governments, possibly different government departments (the armed forces, police forces, fire fighters, hospitals, and so on), social entrepreneurs who wish to make a buck while enhancing a social benefit, citizens, and certainly voices representing the recipients.

This is just one idea as a representation of a longer-term vision.  The important thing is to start conceiving of new approaches and start beta testing some of them. The longer horizon still starts in the short term.  Such innovation and testing could be one part of the efforts and investments from the new Sector Fund I have mentioned in a prior blog (#7).

To put a priority to the innovations we need, perhaps we should start with a Sector Strategic Plan. Typically, such plans combine the WHAT, with the WHO, the HOW, and the WHEN. We need to start putting into place all of these elements. We need a new plan with a new approach. This will be the topic of my next blog.

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