Mar 15, 2023

As Political Solutions Fail the Relevance of Non-Profits Rises

I have nearly given up on political solutions to complex problems but instead steered my energy toward organizations that possess the capacity for real change.
— Ian Symmonds

We live in a politically divided world. Full stop. And, it is not just a divided America, or North America, but an increasingly divided global environment. With cable networks stoking the division and social media amplifying extreme voices, it is not hard to see that political solutions to social problems are failing. In fact, it seems somedays that we are on a teeter-totter, where the balance of the seat in power addresses only their issues at hand. With this constant tension between disparate societal wants and needs, there is little – if any – room for meeting in the middle and agreeing on the issues to solve. Honestly, we cannot even agree upon the challenges to solve, let alone the solutions to create to solve them.

I view the challenges of the current political environment as an extraordinary opportunity to the non-profit sector. In fact, I have come near to giving up on political solutions to complex problems but instead steered my energy toward organizations that possess the capacity for real change. Why? Non-profits have three distinct advantages as solvers to social issues over political structures:

  1. They are independent and can choose their mission, vision and problem to solve, not subject to the discrimination of the government (at least not yet);

  2. They can choose their own leader and leadership structure to advance their organization;

  3. They effectively unite people toward a common cause or social problem, effectively creating community in the process. Non-profits are where people from diverse political viewpoints often come together to solve a problem that is larger than their differences.

Independence. Leadership. Community. Those are the assets of the non-profit structure in our culture. Peter Drucker, the famous late management guru, predicted this phenomenon when he wrote the following as we approached the turn of the century:

The 21st century will be the century of the social sector organization. The more economy, money, and information become global, the more community will matter.

And only the social sector nonprofit organization performs in the community, exploits its opportunities, mobilizes its local resources, solves its problems.

The leadership, competence, and management of the social sector nonprofit organization will thus largely determine the values, the vision, the cohesion, and the performance of the 21st century society.

— Peter Drucker

Drucker was spot on. He called it. As political solutions fail the relevance and importance of non-profit work rises. Our work – in education, leadership, community-building, housing and food insecurity, and a whole range of other issues – matters. It is the real work of social change. The non-profit sector has many limitations – specifically around their funding mechanism, competition for scarce dollars and leadership, and extreme reliance on a tired philanthropic base – these are real problems to address for tomorrow. But, make no mistake, the work of the non-profit is more important than ever before in our culture.

Leave a Comment