This past weekend I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Adelphi University School of Business conference on Social Entrepreneurship, Systems Thinking and Complexity. It was a participative gathering of social innovation/complexity keeners from as far away as Romania, New Zealand, Mexico and Colombia (Canada as well). The image above represents the mathematical side of the conversation but we ranged far into other domains as well (though Kraprekar's Operation is a very interesting tidbit in the nerdy party game genre).

There are many blinking lights in my brain that have been triggered by this intensive three days of discussion, presentations, debates and idea-sketches. Here are a few cursory bits:

  • Complexity theory can help us better understand what we already know through experience (local details matter, we can't plan for every eventuality, we get stuck in certain patterns that are hard to change, sometimes patterns change radically and unexpectedly, and so on).
  • The for profit / not-for-profit divide is not nearly as neat and tidy as it looks.
  • There is a deep creativity in establishing a successful business, particularly if we desire that business to contribute positively to the common good.
  • We have a lot to learn about how to identify, talk about, establish and replicate the best cases of for profit business doing good and not-for-profit enterprises running in top form.
  • The civic core (people who donate, volunteer, vote and participate in public life) is comprised of not-for-profits and charitable enterprises but we must increasingly consider the role that socially minded for profit enterprises play in building and sustaining neighbourhoods, cities, regions, and so on.
  • Resilience and adaptation are important qualities to consider when we are thinking about individual organizations, institutions, and other social groupings.
  • Where does corporate social responsibility (CSR) begin/end and social enterprise begin/end?
  • What is social capital? Where does it come from? What contributes to it? What erodes it?
  • These questions and research/practice themes are important in our local neighbourhoods and in the international community.
  • How do we undertake discussion about social value, social capital and social good in the public square?

More bits and pieces from this conference will show up here over time. The slide deck from one of my presentations is here if you are interested.