There was an extraordinary amount of positivity, optimism, and collaboration at SWF. I interviewed two people who particularly believe in the power of collaboration.

Daniel Franklin, executive editor of "The Economist", facilitated a fascinating discussion titled, "The World in 25 Years: Megatrends and Context for Large Scale Change."

During the discussion, Daniel expressed optimism about the future, and said his optimism lay in the strength of the imagination and of determination. Despite the bewildering pace of change and the virtual impossibility of predicting the future, he contended that humanity as a whole is acquiring the skills to cope. He felt confident about finding solutions to the pressing issues of our times.

I asked Daniel what he saw as the greatest challenge facing humanity, and he answered that it was supplying the basic needs of humanity—something that will require enormous will and resourcefulness, as well as a commitment to international collaboration. He also said that social entrepreneurs have a significant role to play in this process and that collaboration between entrepreneurs will be key to success. Innovators are constantly trying new ways to solve problems. If a certain approach proves successful, it can be iterated.

Mark Kramer, cofounder and managing director of FSG Social Impact Consultants (and co-author of SSIR’s "Collective Impact" article)—would agree with Daniel. In fact, he recently met with The Economist team to discuss how working toward the greater good can benefit the bottom line.

At FSG, Mark has worked extensively on a developmental evaluation approach based on incorporating learning and improvement. This works by creating feedback loops where participants play a proactive part in evaluation.

Mark is passionate about creating cross-sector collaboration. He talks about ”the big idea,” where there is a basic mindset shift in the corporate world that encourages collaboration between business, society, and societal issues, creating a shared value. Although collaboration may be painstaking, it is necessary that organizations go through a structured, facilitated process to ensure everyone is on the same page. This facilitates a shared vision, a common language, and distinct goals.

It is difficult, however, to develop a strategy without good data and a common set of metrics. The challenge is more complex because of the need to consider the social return on investment as well as the financial return. However, funders can play a very important role in enabling this process.

A paradigm shift seems to be taking place that involves observing a program that seems to work, and then replicating or scaling it. FSG is at the forefront of creating this new paradigm—one that involves a different way of doing business and different parameters for the bottom line.

FSG’s major thrust is in creating collaboration between like-minded organizations so that they are able to leverage each other’s resources, learn new ways of conducting business, and assist each other in finding solutions. He also pointed to how inexpensive technology is playing an increasingly important role in the way information we share information. Mobile phones allow people to self-report, which leads to crowd-sourced data and incentives for innovating technology development.

Check back later this week to read about three individuals working in the impact investing space, including Biju Mohandas from The Acumen Fund.

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