When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows was published in 2007 it was printed on paper that did not require the destruction of forests in the process. The story of how this came to be is an illustration of one of the six patterns of social innovation identified by Al Etmanski in his book Impact.1 The pattern in this case being that of mobilising economic power: asking how do we tap into the collective economic power of our constituency?
Cicero, the famous Roman statesman, is quoted to endorse another of Etmanski’s patterns. “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words,” Cicero is quoted as saying. This quote encapsulates the pattern of advocating with empathy: asking how do we move beyond blame and an us/them approach to become solutions focused?
Etmanski’s objective in this book is to answer the question: “why do some social innovations take hold while others don’t spread as far and wide as they should?” Etmanski has identified six patterns that help social innovations spread far and wide. Two of these are those already mentioned. The other four are:
- Thinking and acting like a movement. Asking what am I already a part of and how do I link with other efforts.
- Creating a container. Asking how do I enable people to easily do the right thing?
- Setting the table for allies, adversaries and strangers. Asking how do I go about conversing with everyone, including those opposing my ideas?
- Who is as important as how. Asking “who” allows us to recognise that everyone cares and has the potential to act for change.
Etmanski’s book then, is not just about bringing about a better world through social innovation, it is also about upholding the dignity and uniqueness of each of us as individuals sharing a common heritage and destiny.
Whether Etmanski manages to answer his question is debatable. Although he has identified six patterns, there is no guarantee that consciously creating those patterns is going to ensure that a movement spreads far and wide. Yet, the patterns that he identifies are important. Without recognising and attempting to create these conditions it will be virtually impossible for any social innovation to move beyond the near and narrow.
This book is a useful addition to the growing literature on social innovation. A more judicious editing approach though, I suspect, may have allowed this book to be read more far and wide. Oftentimes I found Etmanski’s arguments got lost in the stories that he uses to illustrate his patterns.
Notwithstanding this criticism, social innovation is important as we move further into the 21st century. But, we cannot rush it, and for that reason Etmanski has done us a great service in identifying the six patterns. As he states:
“Regrettably the solutions to our toughest problems cannot be hurried. We must resign ourselves to a terrible paradox: being patient despite the urgency of the crises we see around us.”1. Al Etmanski, Impact: Six Patterns To Spread Your Social Innovation, Orwell Cove, Canada, 2015