Friday, April 25, 2008

Moles Without Secrets

When John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan published The Power of Unreasonable People, they celebrated social entrepreneurs and predicted that they would be the key drivers of big, important change in the future.

The Economist disagreed:

The greatest agents for sustainable change are unlikely to be the well-intentioned folk described in this book, interesting though they are. They are much more likely to be the entirely reasonable people, often working for large companies, who see ways to create better products or reach new markets, and have the resources to do so.

I thought at the time that it was silly to argue about which change agents were the greatest.

Apparently, however, there was never really an argument. The book just hadn't finished its thought.

Elkington and his colleagues at SustainAbility have just released a new report on worldchanging behavior, and it focuses on exactly those people about whom The Economist wrote. It even gives them a fancy name: social intrapreneurs.

Social intrapreneur, n.
1 Someone who works inside major corporations or organizations to develop and promote practical solutions to social or environmental challenges where progress is currently stalled by market failures.

2 Someone who applies the principles of social entrepreneurship inside a major organization.
3 One characterized by an ‘insider-outsider’ mindset and approach.

The report is called The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers. You can read about it here on the SustainAbility site, and you can download it by clicking this link.

I've given it a preliminary flip through, looked at the pictures, and read the bits that caught my immediate attention. I like it so far. I give the authors points for the silliness of the field guide theme, and I give them big points for the animal metaphors.

I have an objection, though. The report is a pdf, and I'm done with pdfs. I want an interactive website instead. It is, after all, the '90s; we're ready to evolve beyond pdf culture.

I don't want to download and print a 60 page document. I don't want to have to reformat weird broken and disorganized text when I copy quotes and paste them elsewhere. I don't want to clutter my desktop or file a new document.

Put The Guide online. Break it up into sections. Give readers a web interface from which we can navigate to the material that interests us most. Build bio pages for the featured social intrapreneurs. Let us leave messages for them. Let us post questions. Let us answer questions other readers have posted. Let us think and interact and give feedback. Let us help you grow The Guide and make it better.

What do you think, SustainAbility? Is there an intrapreneur among you ready to lead a revolution against the tyranny of static, download-based publishing?

Note: I spent all day yesterday surrounded by coal industry lobbyists in Harrisburg, PA at a mini-conference called The Future of Coal. That's an industry that has a big need for some intrapreneurs. Man. Talk about stalemate. You should see coal people talk to enviro NGO people. No trust. A little bit of politeness in the conference setting, but absolutely zero trust.