Paul Polak on the Death of Big Organizations: The future of Design for the Other 90 Percent
Paul Polack, former head of International Development Enterprises and current head of Design for the Other 90 Percent and Windhorse wrote an epic post on the Death of Big Organizations recently.
I think a couple things check against Design for the Other 90 Percent turning into an ossified organization.
1) Its small scale and driven by innovation and creativity. Its passionate. (seemingly it will always have an advantage over US Aid and the World Bank in this respect)
2) the Market checks ossification to some extent (arguably more than government). The market tends to fight ossification internally and externally. (the question might be how this differs in the developing world context)
3) Its driven by an urge to be empathetic and listen (as well as the dignity of human beings). As long as this is front and center in the principles and practice–the ossification doesn’t seem.
4) continuing to be a learning organization and a transparent organization will help check ossification as well. This can help other agents to help keep it lean, accessible, and ultimately human as it addresses some of the most important needs of humanity. To me this is one of the largest drivers to check ossification given that it provides a means for other organizations to hold it accountable.
5) Other nonprofits, development organizations, as well as IDEA and Project H can serve as another check (I assume other orgs like this will grow given the dual interest and (fundamental need) in solving international problems and design thinking in general)
6) Media/press & bloggers (this will likely increase as the D-90 and BOP markets continue to grow)
Proactive ways to D-90 can fight internal ossification with respect to members and customers:
1) Be alert. Be on guard. Be listening.
2) Direct internal institutional checks. Developing processes and procedures and cultural norms to check ossification. (6 month customer/farmer surveys is one direct way to institutionalize this kind of accountability. Also, farmer forums which would be like town halls. As mobile develop deeper farmers and other customers could be given the opportunity to text suggestions to a centralized location in their country)
3) Find the bright spots. See how other nonprofits, movements, and businesses have done it and follow their lead.
4) Honesty in marketing. Continue to chose types of marketing which are freedom oriented vs. manipulation oriented.
In the case of mental institutions–its hard for its internal customers to have internal or external credibility to check for ossification (especially when weighed against doctors)–I think with the exception of the language barrier and the cult of globalization/Americaness this is generally checked back. Also, given the issue of state failure–even ossification might not be too bad.
A somewhat side question might be: will the BOP movement started and nurtured by CK Prahalad ossify?
I think the larger question is will it be coopted. Arguably had already been coopted before it began and arguably thats the point. I think the future points to the need for 1)competitors 2) customers and 3) NGOs to shine a light on companies which misbehave or release products which don’t respect people’s humanity. I will say that CK Prahalads movement does seem alive and well, even in the wake of his relatively recent death in 2010. I hope to see it flourish even more in the future.