In my last three posts, I’ve examined the power of people in creating social change. First, I discussed the primacy of finding and building the right team of talent. Second, I underscored why developing processes and practices to keep this talent aligned and on board cannot be overlooked. And in my last post, I discussed the critical truth that changing the world takes a lot more than a small, talented team; indeed, it requires a relentless commitment to building a network of shareholders who share your core objectives.
But people are not enough. If your mission is ambitious and impactful the odds are it cannot be achieved without a public policy component.
There are many things nonprofits can do that government cannot. They can innovate and take risks and be closer to the people they serve. But once they’ve built a better mousetrap, it requires public support to get it to scale. Otherwise you are pushing a boulder up a hill and it will slide down again.
This need not necessarily mean lobbying. But it does mean building some capacity to engage in policy development at both the federal and local level, share and advance ideas with policy makers and ultimately bring some political pressure to bear on behalf of your ideas. At its most basic, building political will simply means that you’ve succeeded in getting a broader base of people to care about your mission than just those immediately affected by it.
The practice of engaging in social entrepreneurship itself may be fun, cool, and trendy, but it won’t reach very far. Political will is the fuel that brings effective ideas to scale through the enactment and execution of policy.