Cities and Social Entrepreneurs
A Playbook for Catalytic Collaboration
Cities are increasingly the places where ‘the rubber meets the road’, as experts would say. What they mean is that local government leaders -- be they Mayors, Chief Executives or City Managers -- are increasingly doing more than just delivering local services. They have begun to solve problems that are bigger than their community and tackling issues that regional and national governments have proven incapable of solving on their own. Together, local governments, social entrepreneurs and the communities they serve (and empower!) can have an immediate and sustained impact.
Herein lies the opportunity we share in this playbook for collaboration.
The stories in this report carry a profound message: From Lima to Nashville to Liverpool to Mumbai, by working together, cities and social entrepreneurs have collaborated successfully on solutions that have scaled across the country. They have shown they can do more than simply service problems, and instead aim to solve them for good. This approach is called systems change, meaning a holistic approach in which multiple stakeholders and beneficiaries work together to do something in a fundamentally different way to achieve a truly transformative result.
In our research, we found eight practices that were the basis for successful collaboration between municipalities, social entrepreneurs and communities.
🚀 View Beneficiaries as Changemakers
Beneficiaries as part of the planning process or the actual solutions is important. Additionally to the degree of power that is extended to each individual as a changemaker, what stands out as important is the degree to which these ‘experts at their own lives’ are empowered to learn the skills of planning, negotiation and reviewing evidence. Receiving training and organizational support to navigate complex systems is valuable.
🌱 Shared Agency
↔️ Build Bridges between stakeholders
💡 Always a Lab/ Continuous innovation
Collaboration seems to thrive in an environment where no party is hung up on a particular solution or way for solving a problem. It is evident that a form of agile practice has emerged, organized around evidence or progress toward the shared mission. Research is another common feature, and all stories point to how new ideas can be incubated as bold experiments. It is noted that interventions move at different speeds: progress in Built for Zero communities is measured weekly, while United for Brownsville starts up at a slower pace, appropriate for building trust.
🔧 Use all tools and options
👁️ Take the long view
⏰ Avoid setting grand expectations early on
Manmeet Mehta is the Director of Program Operations and Impact for Ashoka U.S. She has more than 15 years of experience in the corporate and social sector, working on issues of improving access to philanthropic capital, strategy consulting, strategic philanthropy, and grantmaking. She founded GlobalGiving’s online crowdfunding program, “The GlobalGiving Accelerator" in 2007. The Accelerator was the first globally accessible mechanism for social entrepreneurs and nonprofits to access funding from the $270 billion US philanthropic market. She has worked with funders like USAID, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on developing a systems-driven strategy for finding and funding transformative solutions globally. She grew up living in many cities across India, holds an MBA, and a degree in Masters in International Relations and Public Policy from the Maxwell School in Syracuse, NY.