At a recent Public Policy Forum dinner honouring Canada's six living former Prime Ministers, Joe Clark spoke about the critical talents required for a changing world. It is a world in which non – governmental organizations may have more power and influence than states themselves. He cited these examples. Amnesty International has offices in 80 countries, more than most countries have embassies. Only five multi – national companies in the world employ more people than Red Cross/Red Crescent. Greenpeace has more influence on public policy than most national governments.
Without using the phrase social innovation, he managed to describe the skills required to be an effective social innovator. And in a language that was personable and jargon free. The first ninety seconds of his speech is worth viewing for his witty banter and a self deprecating story that had tears of laughter running down many of our faces.
Coming up with a new idea is hard. Proving that your idea works is even harder. Tougher still is scaling and spreading your innovation so its benefits are received far and wide. The reason it is so tough – we must rely on others. Spreading far and wide means changing structures, institutional practices and policies, something we can't do on our own. We must work with friends and allies but equally, strangers and opponents.
Clark identified three sets of skills for this challenging stage of the social innovation journey.
Seek Common Purpose: "… the ability to respect and bridge conflicting identities and different values and patiently seek enough common ground to build trust, respect and then collaboration."
Marry Mandate and Imagination: while non governmental organizations are imaginative inventing new instruments like micro-credit "what they don't have is the authority to change the rules… Non state organizations often have the imagination which the world needs, but only states and governments have the mandate and power to change laws and regulations and obligations."
Lead from beside: "As power disperses in the world so does the capacity to lead. And in almost every case the most effective leadership will have to be shared," Clark said. "The model now should be leadership from beside."
These skills Clark concluded, " define a collaborative, respectful, innovative world..and speak to the most challenging issues of the future.
Here's the You-Tube of former Prime Minister Joe Clark's complete speech. Wise words from one of our best.