Leadership for Glocal Impact: Key Insights and Related SOCAP Sessions

Posted by on September 14th, 2016

A SOCAP Guest Post By Arjanna van der Plas

What strategies can be employed to address the complex nature of social and environmental challenges on a local and global level? And how do we design systemic solutions inspired by the greatest future possibilities, rather than define them by the past?

Questions like these fascinate every ambitious social entrepreneur. But we hardly take the time to ponder on the answers. SOCAP and the events that are organized around this conference give us the opportunity to dive into these big themes, and learn from science and practice.

On Monday September 12, Nordic Impact Week (former Nordics Go SOCAP) kicked off with an international dialogue on Leadership for Glocal Impact at Saybrook University, hosted by the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership in partnership with researchers from the Melbourne Business School Asia Pacific Social Impact Centre, who presented their groundbreaking research on business models for social impact in a hands-on workshop. Other notable partners of the event included Global Chamber San Francisco, Bay Bucks Cooperative, the NorCal Community Resilience Network, and China Social Innovation Forum.


Key Insights from Leadership for Glocal Impact organizer Fyodor Ovchinnikov, co-founder of the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership

“When we deal with complexity, we tend to take our own perspective on the situation as the norm. No wonder that we cherish our own solutions, and try to find excuses for why these solutions have limited or even negative impact,” Ovchinnikov explains. “In our daily life we rarely take the time to map our stakeholders, let alone to closely study the relationships between them and the value that is generated and exchanged in our network. When people are challenged to do a mapping exercise like we did at the event, they suddenly realize that there are many critical things they do not know. This is uncomfortable, especially when they think that they have the solution already.”

arjanna_2“It is a very common pitfall to resist the mapping phase, to dismiss it as being a waste of time. This attitude undermines our capacity for innovation, collaboration, and collective action that can be effective in addressing the complex issues we face on local and global level. Therefore we should always remember to suspend our judgement, let go of attachments to pre-existing solutions and emotions these attachments generate, be comfortable with not knowing the right answer, and listen to others to get a better sense of what is going on. And, on top of that, we need to always remember that solving complex problems takes time. A lot of it. As well as hard work that by its nature involves ambiguity, frustration, and clashes of limiting beliefs, egos, and structures. It is an art and science to navigate the change gracefully and skillfully, resisting the temptation to avoid this hard work and retreat to what we already know and do best.”

“This blind spot that I just described shows up quite strongly in social entrepreneurship. It is common for social entrepreneurs to focus on product or service that in their opinion would help address the social or environmental issue as they understand it, and to think that if only they figure out the product-market fit, this will inevitably create significant positive social impact. This conventional laser-focus mentality makes many change makers to either think that mapping the stakeholders and analyzing relationships among them is not important, or assume that they already have sufficient understanding of the social system they are trying to fix. Usually neither of these assumptions is true.”

“As confirmed by recent research conducted by our partners from Melbourne Business School, social impact critically depends on the arrangement of value exchange among multiple actors (including businesses, government institutions & NGOs) and not so much on specific value generated by one particular actor. Think about this: if you are serious about making a real positive difference for people and the planet, in most cases it is not enough to develop a product or service that addresses the symptoms and is well received by the market. As my esteemed colleague and co-organizer Dr. Chris Dembek puts it, exclusive focus on product-market fit makes social entrepreneurs “half blind”, and they end up simply making some money from unconsciously reinforcing more of what is exactly the root cause of the complex problem they claim to address.

I hope that for many participants of our pilot #glocalimpact16 event these insights will serve as a springboard for a deep and honest inquiry that can take their social innovation endeavors to the next level.”

Feel free to send your questions for Fyodor Ovchinnikov at f.ovchinnikov@evleadinstitute.com.

Five SOCAP Sessions on Leadership for Glocal Impact Not to be Missed

Would you like to learn more about Leadership for Glocal Impact in action? Check out these five SOCAP sessions!

What Will It Take to Solve Climate Change? Broad Challenges and Innovative Solutions

Wednesday  September 14, 10:45 AM – 11:45 AM, in Gallery 308

Ready to solve climate change? Where do we begin? Let’s look at the problem at the macro level and evaluate all the tools we have to address it, with an emphasis on the role of innovation and impact investing and the opportunities out there to get involved. This panel will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders to discuss the myriad opportunities that exist for joining the struggle against climate change.

Building Healthy Communities through Investments in Local Economic Strategies

Wednesday September 14, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM, at the Southside Theater

Over the past several decades, studies have shown that up to 80% of human health is determined by social factors such as income, housing quality, and education, rather than just by the availability or quality of medical care. In response, investments are now being directed toward prevention at the community level and new strategic alliances are emerging. From the national to neighborhood level, we’ll explore new drivers and tactics for investing in population health.

Food Climate Collaborative in Action

Thursday September 15, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, in C235

Food manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and suppliers are leveraging the collective power of the natural foods industry and teaming up to take bold action to reverse climate change. OSC2, in partnership with natural foods industry leaders, is developing a networked approach to inspire action and recognize businesses doing the right thing. Learn how sustainable food leaders are deepening their commitments, expanding partnerships, and sharing best practices.

A Story of Unreasonable Collaboration

Friday September 16, 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM, at the Festival Mainstage

The most radical innovation and impactful change often happens at the convergence of sectors, perspectives, and industries. With 325 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays has recently engaged with Acumen and Unreasonable Group to pioneer new models of partnership. Join this panel of unlikely collaborators to learn how they are working together to unleash the power of entrepreneurship to create jobs, build a greener economy and develop new opportunities for inclusive business.

Best of Cities: How to Teach All Businesses in Your City about Impact

Friday September 16,  11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, in the  BATS! Theater

Is it possible to have every business in a city learn how to solve locally entrenched issues? Yes! NYC started a citywide program to teach all businesses – not just those that drank their Kool Aid – how to create high quality jobs, strengthen communities, and preserve the environment. In the first 6 months, more than 1,300 companies participated, reaching 63,000 workers. Come hear lessons learned from NYC, and also Pittsburgh and New Orleans about how they are doing the same.


arjanna-at-lowlandsArjanna van der Plas is a social impact focused author, yoga teacher and workshop facilitator. She currently spends most of her time in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, teaching yoga and meditation at the Healing Well, and writing a book and blog series called Stories Behind The Fog together with the Free Range Puppies. With Stories Behind The Fog she wants to challenge the single-minded view of homelessness by rendering its entire spectrum, one story at a time.

Before Arjanna moved to San Francisco, she was communications manager for the Amsterdam based sustainability startup Circle Economy. Prior to that, she was a lecturer at the TU Delft, innovator at TNO (the largest independent research organization in the Netherlands) and freelance science journalist. Arjanna holds two MSc. degrees from the TU Delft, one in Industrial Design Engineering and one in Science Communications. Follow her on Medium, Linkedin, and Twitter.