Why We Do This
The Fast Company Social Capitalist Project began with this belief: Excellence that isn't measured goes unappreciated. Our years of leading coverage of social entrepreneurs had persuaded us that these organizations dedicated to solving the world's problems were not just do gooders -- they were business people of vision who had created organizations worthy of imitation in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. But no sophisticated method of analysis existed that could quantify how these organizations were different from their peers, and more important, provide insights into the organizational practices that produced this excellence.
So we decided to invent one.
Working with a team of world-class consultants at Monitor Group, Fast Company developed the first methodology capable of comparing non-profits of different sizes and ages across social sectors. We hoped that by approaching this topic in such a rigorous, data-driven fashion, the amazing nature of these organizations would be more discernible -- both to our readers, and to the field. While rating non-profits is controversial, we think it is a necessary step for the sector to grow and improve. And, frankly, it's a way to see that these excellent organizations get the recognition they deserve.
The non-profit sector faces myriad challenges, not the least of which is an irrational investment structure that provides no means of scaling for brilliant, proven ideas; there is no non-profit equivalent to an IPO. We think the Social Capitalist project is one small step toward a world in which you might one day choose to donate (or invest, as the case may be) in social ventures by using something akin to an investor's guide with performance ratings.
We don't pretend that our system is flawless.
We've involved some of the world's foremost experts in measuring non-profit performance in devising this methodology. But, like all early attempts in nascent fields, it is a work in progress. We refine the weightings and tweak the questions we ask every year.
And the name? Ah, yes, that was controversial, too. For many in the non-profit field, the connotations of "capitalism" are no doubt unsavory. Our meaning in combining that term with the word "social" was to capture the notion that this group of organizations is building vast wealth in the community of a non-monetary nature -- "social capital," if you will.
Competitions and lists of this sort can by their very nature appear to outsiders as arrogant, a by-product of daring to assume the mantle of judge. But we don't embrace that imperious mindset, and in fact, actively seek feedback from our participants and the non-profit field. In that vein, feel free to contact our team to ask questions or tell us what you think of the project.
Our underlying commitment remains to the original premise: that this work serves some greater purpose beyond just delivering a few insights and lessons to our readers. (Though that, to be sure, figures prominently in our motivation.) As part of that commitment, we offer detailed feedback to any organization that goes through our evaluation process. We are also looking at ways to use the data we gather long term to benefit study of the field.
Ultimately, we think this project allows us to tell some of the most compelling stories of our time -- those of a few amazing groups that are leaving a mark on history.