One of the most important issues facing institutions and organizations today is a shortage of people with leadership skills, experience, and capabilities.
The problem is two-fold: too many leadership roles are too big for any one person to reasonably take on, leading to excessive levels of burnout among leaders we do have; in addition, there are too few leaders in the talent pipeline. At CrowdDoing we are piloting solutions to both dimensions of this problem.
For a mission-driven organization, concentrating and centralizing responsibility for the entity’s success or failure in one macro leader—be that person a CEO, President, Executive Director, or Founder—is a system that will overwhelm that macro leader by design.
But an organization can also succeed when many individuals in it each adopt a dimension of responsibility for an aspect of the challenges it faces. This kind of micro leadership is fostered by CrowdDoing. It strengthens the talent pipeline by providing a diversity of individuals access to leadership skills and experience. Macro leaders who are supported by organized constellations of micro-leaders share the creative responsibility for the success of their organization in a way that reduces stress and lightens the burden for all involved.
We live in a world in which 193 countries agreed to collaborate with all stakeholders to achieve Sustainable Development Goals: to enhance public health, prevent poverty, increase environmental sustainability etc. by 2030. So far the world is not yet on track for achieving these goals by the deadline. In order for these goals to become feasible, collaboration around social innovation will need to scale markedly. Each individual mission-driven organization almost always has aspirational goals that are far greater in scale than its means. Micro-leadership can make up the difference.
CrowdDoing aspires to achieve systemic change by deploying under-utilized capacities to increase the density of social innovations relevant to solving a particular societal challenge. Leverage for impact requires finding and applying resources that are not currently deployed in a way that addresses societal challenges. CrowdDoing applies micro leadership to disparate collective challenges. These have included, for example, the following:
Researching biophilia cost-benefits in cities to make it feasible to finance plants; improving collective knowledge of the relative efficacy of combinations of foods that can help alleviate prevent and stress, insomnia, and anxiety; and evaluating blockchain mechanisms for addressing Sustainable Development Goals. One completed case study that CrowdDoing conducted was the first impact assessment of a mini-IPO by a social enterprise on Nasdaq.
Micro leadership has a history which has been confined to a particular field: open source software has historically leveraged micro leadership among computer scientists to build operating systems such as Linux. CrowdDoing learns from what the open source community has long known about the potential efficacy of micro-leadership. But micro leadership has not been extended to multi-disciplinary collaboration.
Although there may be a shortage of macro leaders, there is an abundance of potential micro leaders. CrowdDoing’s impact venture lab and CrowdDoing’s portfolio of social innovations and social enterprises offer almost anyone the opportunity to contribute to systemic change as a volunteer micro leader. Micro-leadership does not require that any one person take the weight of the world upon his or her shoulders. While macro leaders take comprehensive responsibility, micro-leaders seek responsibility for only a dimension of a societal challenge in collaboration with others.
CrowdDoing creates a diversity of roles that allow individuals to take on flexible part-time levels of responsibility to address a specific dimension of a social challenge. CrowdDoing is premised on the idea that almost everyone has the capacity for leadership. Micro-leadership with regards to almost any social challenge can come from almost any disciplinary background.
Historically, problems that can be addressed within a discipline have required less collaboration than problems that cut across many fields. All wicked problems, such as preventing urban air pollution, are by definition multi-causal rather than mono-causal. This makes the need for micro-leadership all the more important. Achieving United Nations SDGs very often depends upon solving wicked problems because wicked problems represent an increasing proportion of challenges we face collectively. The prevention gaps they embody can only be addressed through developing and applying new forms and methods of multi-disciplinary collaboration. This new scale of collaboration allows any given wicked problem to get addressed through multiple vectors of prevention otherwise known as social innovations.
CrowdDoing operates on the principle of parallel collaboration, parallel cooperation, and parallel streams of effort that come together to make systemic change possible. Social innovations can become engines of inclusive collaboration in proportion to how they diversify and scale the number and depth of volunteer roles they create. CrowdDoing’s pilots in micro-leadership and parallel collaboration can represent an alternative model for how we can grow social innovations to address Sustainable Development Goals.