Imagine a future where what we understand of how charities work to make society better is radically different from today.
Today, starting a charity starts with the cause. The charity commission has a list of charitable causes that can be selected from. And if there are already too many charities working on the same cause, the Charity Commission suggests working with an existing charity.
In the future, charities wouldn’t be tied to a particular cause (along with the implied incentive of never solving the issue to ensure their continued existence), they would be a particular type of organisation operating in the civic space (rather than state or market) not for profit and with their impact on social good being their measure of success.
These cause-agnostic charities would be able to point their problem solving skills at any social issue and apply proven methods to understand the issue and test solutions, acting almost as a charity-as-a-service for communities.
Innovators for the state
The NHS was created by bringing together a number of charity hospices to be under the control and funding of central government.
If I was looking at that through an innovation lens I might say that charities independently identified a need in society, responded to it, tested solutions until they found a way to meet that need, and then found a backer to scale it.
What if that served as a model for how to use charities to identify the social needs of the population, test solutions by rolling out services into the community, and once those solutions are validated, handing them over to local government services to run.
If, in running an innovative service, the charity doesn’t validate the solution sufficiently for government to take it on they can look at alternative options like handing it over to the community or other organisation to run. The charity can move on to the next community issue to be solved, whatever it might be, but as the charity is agnostic of what causes they work on, the type of issue isn’t the deciding factor.
Charity would be of different sizes and have different skills, meaning they can be matched with social problems that they have experience with and have a good chance of developing good solutions for.
Vanguards for social change
As the government services take over the running of the validated solutions to identified problems in the community, the whole of society becomes a better place. As problems occur communities tender for charities to solve their problems, governments tender charities to support on national and international problems and the charity sector becomes the vanguard of positive social change that it should be.