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Lean Impact by Eric Ries, Ann Mei Chang

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Chapter TenSystems Change

Many of our society’s greatest challenges cannot be solved sustainably at scale by any single organization or intervention. At some point, even the best solutions can run into a wall of existing policy and market failures – where neither government or business is meeting the needs of certain disadvantaged populations. If we stay true to our goal and the problem we have chosen, in some cases we’ll need to change the system itself.

So, where does that leave a social entrepreneur? Innovation is still essential. A nonprofit or social enterprise is in a unique position to demonstrate to governments and the business community the impact and viability of a particular course of action. Once a new approach is de‐risked and shown to be feasible, it becomes a far smaller leap for others to take. For example, a new intervention may prove to save government money in the long run, perhaps by preventing health issues, poverty, or crime. Or, businesses might open their eyes to new revenue opportunities they had overlooked, perceived as too risky, or didn’t see sufficient upside to explore.

The Skoll Foundation, a longtime advocate for social entrepreneurship, is among the leading thinkers who have made the shift to a systems mindset. It has come to appreciate the inherent limits of scaling individual organizations. As a result, its focus has expanded beyond the enterprise to embrace the so‐called systems entrepreneurs who are taking on the challenge of shifting social ...

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