A Shiny New Blended Value–Hop in and row!

Welcome to Blended Value 2.0!

My work has always been about collaboration.

I started writing about an alternative vision for managing philanthropy, investing and organizations in 1996 with the publication of New Social Entrepreneurs: The Success, Challenge and Lessons of Nonprofit Enterprise Creation, co-edited with Fay Twersky. That was followed in 2000 by the REDF Box Set, which included not only my own writings, but those of the Social Entrepreneurs we were investing in and our larger REDF team. I had the pleasure of producing two early books on Social Entrepreneurship with Greg Dees, our Enterprising Nonprofit books. And also in 2000, I also had the real pleasure of serving on the faculty at Harvard Business School where I wrote and published The Nature of Returns: A Social Capital Markets Inquiry into Elements of Investment and the Blended Value Proposition, a paper I shared with many of my Harvard colleagues and others who gave me great feedback and perspective. This was then followed by the Blended Value Map in 2003, which I completed by convening a host of folks in cities across the United States to engage in discussions regarding the nature of value and which I was only able to complete with the good collaboration of Sheila Bonnini and support of a number of foundations, the leaders of which more or less “got” what I was trying to do. And, finally, together with Antony Bugg-Levine I co-authored the first book on our field, entitled, Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference.

I think of myself as either a thoughtful practitioner or a practical academic whose career has been built upon posting papers which then “get legs” and are passed around by folks I may or may not actually know but with whom I’m on this path (indeed, I’ve published only one paper in a peer-reviewed journal). The way I came to understand the world is by writing about what I (and those I work with or encounter) are doing, how we’re putting ideas into practice and how our work shapes our thinking. One of the core concepts I am committed to is that of Praxis–wherein thought is informed by actions, which then lead to deeper/better thought, which in turn helps you execute at a higher level and so on…

Yet, one of the things I’ve found most frustrating in my career has been the notion held by many that one must be either a “thought leader” or a “social entrepreneur” (or manager or “doer,” if you will…). The problem with this is that I have always thought of myself as a thoughtful practitioner, someone who understands that good ideas alone are not enough–and the good intent of our efforts do not necessarily lead to impact. Rather, we need both theory and practice for the two are inextricably linked,  joined not at the hip, but throughout the body from top to bottom–mind, heart and arms/legs are one–and we are best served by recognizing this as we move through our world.

I first tried to gather my thinking and reflections in a web site about 6 years ago; but I have too many jobs and not enough support, so over time my site simply became a repository for various papers I’d written and wanted to get out on the web. More recently, however, I’ve heard from various folks that I should be and do something more with all this, and so have worked with Andrew Boardman and his team to create this Shiny New Blended Value site, which we’re launching on May 30th of this year.

My intent is to bring not only my own social media, writing, videos and other things together in a better way, but to also use the site as a way to point out interesting initiatives, people, ideas and organizations I think others might find of use in their own work. I have become a big tweeter (much to my chagrin…) and in the course of becoming a part of that internet neighborhood have been reminded just how many great and wonderful conversations are taking place around the world–conversations I would like to share with others and discussions I’d like to be a part of.

As I have often said, in the past our community has been like a series of block parties in connected neighborhoods where people live and talk and drink and debate; what has happened over the last decade is that all these various block parties have poured out onto a global avenue and become one big-ass parade. If you jump out of your spot in order to catch a glimpse up and down that avenue you can see us all there–social entrepreneurs, impact investors, strategic philanthropists, new business leaders, thought leaders, sustainability activists, next-gen innovators and god knows who all else–and you suddenly realize it isn’t about your block but rather the whole flow of energy, ideas and practices coursing across the world, carving out new paths, shaping new ideas and changing our planet and its people every bit as much as traditional capitalism or progressive social movements or technological revolutions–because what we are each involved in includes each of those things and so much more–indeed, more than any one of us can truly track or comprehend.

I am launching this site as part mirror, part satellite dish, part mixing bowl, part party hat; I’m excited to share what I’m seeing with you just as I trust you will share your insights and ideas with me. I hope you like the layout of this newest effort–and look forward to hearing from you!