Messy, Difficult, Necessary: Four Approaches to Social Impact in a Complex World

It is rare for each of us, in our personal lives or in our social impact work, to pull back to take a big-picture and historical view. But analyzing the lessons of the past informs our work today and helps us identify opportunities for the future. For myself, reflecting on the five years that I have spent as the CEO of Tides has underscored the importance of continuing to “Dare Change” for social impact.

An essential part of moving toward shared prosperity is connecting with people and ideas that are different than our own. This concept is known as bridging. While bridging does not have an agreed-upon definition, its essence is the ability to come together as people, organizations, and communities so that each person’s capacities, uniqueness, and potential are honored and unleashed to help solve problems together. Bridging is a 21st-century skill necessary for building an inclusive future for all. It applies to us as individuals, organizations, and communities, requiring that we step out of our bubbles to establish common ground with seemingly unlikely partners. Bridging is the opposite of “othering”—an approach that has become increasingly common as polarization has pulled us apart, creating a world of “us” versus “them.” Anyone who has committed to bridging knows that it requires a lot from us. We are only just beginning to understand what is needed to effectively bridge the gaps between us. To start, our research and case studies have revealed three qualities that can enable us to get smarter, collaboratively, even as our world grows increasingly complex.

Read the full paper here (PDF)

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