Updated October 8, 2014:
This site is intended as a public repository for appropriate solutions, where “appropriate” means suitable for the social, ecological, and economic needs of people and groups, and “solutions” refer to practical ways of addressing and resolving problems, typically through entrepreneurial (i.e., self-generated) initiatives. While it does not exclude policy solutions, the focus is on things that groups and individuals can do on their own, including obtaining and/or generating their own resources.
[Outdated]The site was created and has been maintained by the Center for Leadership in Sustainability, a NJ-based nonprofit that sponsors the Sustainable Haiti Coalition, the Sustainable Leadership Forum, and the Sustainable Leadership Network. These entities have now been integrated with the Center for Regenerative Solutions (CRCS), our 501(c)(3) umbrella organization that sponsors New Jersey PACE. PACE is an example of a solution that we believe has sufficient potential that we decided to put everything else aside and work on bringing its benefits to New Jersey communities. We do this, however, within the broader context of CRCS. Our ultimate goal is a project called Making the World Work, a book of solutions that bring together sustainability and transformation. (More on this to come.)
One of the original goals of the site was to provide ideas, resources, and connections for launching and supporting a wide range of sustainable social enterprises in developing nations. In this context it derives from the ideas and suggestions contained in the Center’s proposal to USAID/DIV, summarized here: DIV-SocialEnterpriseCatalystNov-Dec2011. The proposal itself was, and is, very simple: it is to identify, train, support, and fund sustainability-oriented social entrepreneurs in some of the least-developed nations, beginning in the Western hemisphere with Haiti. (This approach replicates some of the most successful methods of Ashoka and other social-enterprise initiatives implemented over the years—some of which are described in more detail elsewhere on the site—and updates it to focus on enterprises that contribute to the social, ecological, and economic sustainability of communities and nations.)
Unfortunately we were not successful in obtaining the grant, and had to turn our attention to other things, closer to home, where we could make both a living and a difference. This is what led us, after Superstorm Sandy, to focus on community solutions to the impacts of climate change, and especially New Jersey PACE. As a result some of the earlier commentary is now of only historical interest, so I’ve moved it to the end of this section.[*]
Using this Site
We invite you to use this site as a “collaboratory”: a place to collect and study useful information, reflect on it, and then take concerted action to realize your mission and vision as a sustainable social entrepreneur or support organization.
In thinking about how to lay out this site, it became evident that there had to be a taxonomy of information—and that this taxonomy should not itself get in the way of accessing the information but should facilitate it. So the criteria are more practical than theoretical. It’s based on where it seems most logical to the author to “place” the information within the framework provided—and to allow for change and cross-referencing as needed.
In reviewing other sites it became clear that there is no single or agreed-upon way of classifying human knowledge (and by definition “knowledge” is an open rather than a closed system, so it can never be fully classified). The one used here currently breaks information into the following:
- Conflict Resolution
- Thought and Ideas
- Global Change
- War and Peace
Obviously there are many subcategories still to be added to this schema, and we’re open to revising the categories if it makes sense to do so, but this is our starting-point for now. The site remains a work in progress, and we invite your ideas, suggestions, and collaboration.
From the original text (2012):
Our goals include social and technological innovation, so we are not afraid to depart from the conventional wisdom, either in developing countries or in our own. At the same time, our aim is not to reinvent any wheels but to stand on the shoulders of previous accomplishments, and see how far we can project sustainable and regenerative solutions out into the future, a future of unlimited opportunities and of critical challenges.
If there is going to be a future at all, the present generation—a generation that straddles the 20th and 21st centuries, and has now surpassed the seven billion mark—faces a set of profound and complex choices as part of what may be called “the great transition,” the evolution of our ideas, attitudes, beliefs, institutions, and actions from those of a rapacious, unstable, and ultimately unsustainable economy to those of a more sustainable one. This does not mean solving all human problems (e.g., inequality of circumstances), but it does mean solving those that now threaten our own existence and that of many other species. We might then imagine a human future in which we can go beyond that which we need to do simply to ensure our own species’ survival. This in itself would constitute “utopia” for the great majority of humanity alive today. (The best definition of utopia I’ve heard is a world where people live in harmony with each other and in balance with nature. The former is, perhaps, optional; the latter is however mandatory.)
The site does not aspire to being an exhaustive compendium of sustainable solutions, but like Ashoka’s Changemakers to provide a collection point for “open-source” societal solutions. Ashoka is many ways about investing in superheroes; but most of us aren’t superheroes, so it’s important to recognize that, as David Bornstein writes,
All of this is intended to serve Ashoka’s overarching vision of building an “Everyone a Changemaker” world, a vision that Drayton sees both as a practical necessity and a major evolutionary step forward. “As the world changes faster and faster, the half-life of any particular solution gets shorter and shorter,” he explains, “We need new solutions all the time. So the most important factor to focus on is the percentage of the world’s population that are changemakers. When you have “Everyone a Changemaker,” you have a constant subtle adjustment going on at every point all the time. If we’re going to have a world that works, where people are full citizens, people need the knowledge that they can cause change, and the skill. You need to know how to work with others and you need to live in a society that respects and supports you in doing that. If you think about it, this is a world with a brain-like structure, where everyone knows how to initiate and pull together teams and networks of teams, to accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished, and everyone else knows how to play too—and they get tremendous satisfaction from playing together.”
1. David Bornstein, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas (updated edition, Oxford University Press, 2007), p.304