Reflections from the World Economic Forum: Four Big Trends for Social Good Organizations to Watch

February 6, 2017 Kevin McDearis


This article was originally published on npENGAGE.

Part 2 in a 2-part Davos report for the Social Good Community (See Part 1 here)

As a leader at a company that sits at the intersection of tech and social good, I came away from this year’s World Economic Forum inspired on both fronts. The emerging technology driving the 4th industrial revolution has incredible potential to change the way we work, live, connect and more. And the social good community – across the entire social economy – has powerful potential to ensure that these changes benefit the world.

Here are four big trends for the social good sector over the next few years that I saw playing out at Davos:

1. Social good organizations are embracing the paradigm shift – or risk getting left behind.

If one thing was clear at Davos, it was that companies are already shifting rapidly to a new paradigm, preparing for the ways that the 4th industrial revolution will change the world.  Social good organizations (nonprofits, foundations, education institutions, etc.) need to shift too in order to not be left behind – and to ensure that the enormous potential of the fourth industrial revolution is used to lift humankind, not to widen inequity.

What’s more, we’re going to see the paradigm shift directly impact the way we work in the social good space. In the near future, I predict that the tech trends driving this shift will continue to place more pressure on peer-to-peer and “do it yourself” fundraising capabilities.  And institutional funders will continue to place increased emphasis on outcomes and accountability into their grant-making.

Are you building these paradigm shifts into the way you plan, monitor, report and operate?  (See 5 key questions you should be considering as you do here.)

2. Social good organizations will embrace the new tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The tools powering these revolutionary changes in the corporate space can also be leveraged by social good organizations to drive dramatic shifts in effectiveness, scale and outcomes. Nonprofits are going to become more reliant on enablers like AI and quantum modeling, which will drive everything from financial models to marketing campaigns to donor engagement.

If your organization is ready to embrace the new tools of the fourth industrial revolution, but don’t know where to start, start small: with some of the postures that have driven the most innovation. First, embrace agile development – this buzzword simply means an iterative development process shaped by data-driven feedback. Secondly, develop a willingness to “fail.”  The agile approach minimizes the scale of “failure,” allowing your effort (technology or otherwise) to more rapidly adapt to changing needs and to more quickly discover where you are not achieving your objectives.

3. Cross-Sector Partnerships will take on a New Level of Importance

For companies, keeping a small CSR program on the periphery is no longer enough.  As companies re-imagine their corporate social responsibility as what we at Blackbaud have termed human social responsibility, corporations are finding ways to contribute within their core competencies.

At #WEF17, I met Samantha Stein, founder/CEO of Hacktivision, who is leveraging Silicon Valley techniques to coordinate volunteerism in the high-tech community through hackathons benefitting the social good community.  Ericsson is using their technology to sniff out human trafficking—but this required partnerships with experts in the nonprofit and foundation space, to name a few. And companies like Unilever are not only focused on their supply chain, but re-structuring their advertising practices to better support and promote gender equality.

If you’re coming from the nonprofit side, are you leveraging this shift and thinking expansively about the potential good your corporate partners can contribute to your goals?

4. Organizations that Embrace the Sustainable Development Goals will be on the Leading Edge

At the World Economic Forum this year, I was blown away by the common focus I saw on the Sustainable Development Goals – a UN initiative of 17 Global Goals for sustainable development that set an agenda for the world to achieve by 2030.  Public, private and social sectors are aligned like never before around a common set of indicators. The organizations and companies who come together to embrace them first are going to be on the leading edge.

This is why at Blackbaud, we’re building the Sustainable Development Goals taxonomy into all of our cloud software products, so nonprofits, foundations and corporations can not only track and dialogue around funding and but stay connected to the larger global conversation.

The collaboration and innovative thinking around building a better world I saw at Davos this year encouraged me.  We’ve been asking some big questions lately about what it would look like to come together across sectors to build a stronger social economy so that everyone working for good can achieve more.  As I travel home from Davos, I’m even more inspired to push into these concepts to advance the social good space.  For me, that will look like working to push the boundaries of innovation across our software platforms. What will it look like for you?


Previous Article
8 Tips for Radical Collaboration to Advance Your Mission and Help Strengthen the Social Economy
8 Tips for Radical Collaboration to Advance Your Mission and Help Strengthen the Social Economy

How do we accelerate positive change to advance the social economy?

Next Article
How Will We Harness the Potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution for Good?  
How Will We Harness the Potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution for Good?  

The fourth industrial revolution is coming, and it will undoubtedly change the world. For those of us in th...


Sign up to our mailing list to receive industry trends and information!

First Name
Last Name
Organization Name
Solution Area of Interest
Thanks for signing up!
Error - something went wrong!