Who Moves the Creative-Change Cheese?

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“Creativity results from the interaction of a system consisting of three elements: a culture that contains symbolic rules, a person who brings novelty into the symbolic domain, and a field of experts who recognize and validate the innovation”, says Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, who has written much about the innate connection between creativity, happiness and meaning calling it “flow”.
If one were to look back into history and see what creative ideas have endured and have brought about change, one sees this time and again. Creativity might be innately personal arising from the mastery of the subject and brilliance of unique perceptions of the creative individual but creative change in any domain largely occurs when the field of experts, the “gatekeepers” allow creative ideas filter out and thus give opportunities for them to interact with and change “reality”. This is where the rubber hits the road.

If one were to apply this to the development sector, one sees that there is no dearth of creative ideas and innovations – either in research or in ground-level implementation. So what then corrals these? Why aren’t we seeing Social Change in the same scale and pace as economic growth or technological advances? Who are the “Gatekeepers” who determine what and to what degree will filter out? Is it the investors and corporate who are pushing for Social Entrepreneurship? Or the funders who determine what kind of projects will get funded? Policy-makers, bureaucrats and politicians who determine the underlying policy fabric that determines where, for whom, and how development projects get implemented?

Dan Palotta’s Ted-talk where he highlights the anomaly in development funding and Peter Buffet’s call for spending more money in trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market, throw light on the current challenges faced by the non-profit sector.   We hear much about the funding woes of NGOs, seeing quite a few very innovative and relevant ones folding up under the pressure.

Admittedly the golden era of funding large-scale reformative revolution is firmly in the past. What we are seeing is the rise of a different kind of philanthropy… in turn resulting in a certain type of culture that is competitive rather than collaborative, brand-oriented than cause-oriented, more individualistic than collective.

It is resulting in a certain kind of Storytelling – more template-tised, having specific formats with those that do not “fit” being either pared to fit or just plain cut-out.

Coming back the Mihalyi’s articulation of Creativity, what we are clearly seeing is the impact of the decisions wielded by the “gatekeepers” on what will constitute Creative Change. Just the energies of creative individuals with mastery over the domain may not be sufficient to move the social-change mountains. We need a new creative and progressive army of “gatekeepers” who will help change the story-fields and expectations from the Non-profit sector.

Under these kind of trends and conditions, what questions come to mind? Does the “field” itself need to undergo creative change and transformation? What do we need to do to bring more creative brilliance in the domain of the “gatekeepers”..? How do we get more Dan Palottas and Peter Buffets into the third link of Creativity to bring Creative Change?

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