From economic disruption, political upheaval, and other crises of the moment, to the perennial issues of disease, thirst, and famine, rarely has the world seemed so beset – or the need for new thinking more stark. The world has flattened, and the fates of all its people, whether residing in a Western capital or a village in rural India, are more tightly knit than ever. That’s led to a growing sense that the old paradigms of government aid and private philanthropy are simply inadequate to meet the critical challenges of the 21st century.
With that in mind, What Matters set out to gather a roster of world-class thinkers and practitioners to write about new models for tackling the world’s toughest problems during, what social innovator Blake Mycoskie calls “this volatile moment.”
The social innovators you’ll find in this volume are bringing similarly fresh perspectives to a breathtaking array of problems. Matt Damon and Gary White of Water.org borrowed from the microfinance movement to help individuals solve problems of water access with novel, customized approaches. Ian Craig of The Northern Rangelands Trust made sustainable job creation part of his model for wildlife conservation in Kenya, making local communities collaborators in the success of his programs, rather than adversaries. Other writers, such as Tim Brown of IDEO, and David Kilcullen and Alexa Coutrney of Caerus Associates, write about the very nature of innovation. And lest anyone think that innovative thinking is strictly a new phenonmenon, Armida Fernandez, a neonatologist in Mumbai, writes movingly of how she cut infant mortality at her hospital, which serves the city’s slum dwellers, almost in half in the 1970s, by being very methodical, very creative, and extremely driven, despite chronic underfunding and understaffing.