What does innovation mean in the nonprofit sector?

Dana Frasz is the Founder & Executive Director of Food Shift, an Earth Island Institute sponsored project working build a more just and sustainable food system by connecting the dots between food waste and hunger.  Prior to founding Food Shift, Dana spent three years working at Ashoka to find and support social entrepreneurs.

What does innovation mean in the nonprofit sector?  This question kicked off the last day at the Nonprofit Technology Conference and I was energized by the ways in which the panelists passionately highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses within the nonprofit community.  We are bold, we are brave, we are working together and taking on every challenge possible to create a better world.  We are collaborating with the for profit sector, embracing technology and expanding our reach in new ways.  Yet, as Brian Reich said, “we still don’t have a culture, systems or funding for radical innovation” and we are having the same conversations year after year.

Why is hunger increasing if we have “innovative” hunger organizations? Are we really challenging the status quo and radically changing the system?  If we are really solving the problem, shouldn’t we be putting ourselves out of business?  The issues are complex but we do need to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to take more risks, shake up the system and push against the status quo to make more impactful change.

We are living in urgent times and the list of problems we are facing is never ending.  As a young social entrepreneur working to create systemic change in the food sector by connecting the dots between food waste and hunger, I am eager to put my vision into action and see results fast.  I’m deeply inspired by Annie Leonard’s series of videos including the Story of Stuff and am encouraged to hear about the 20+ year journey it took for Annie to get to this place of having such a powerful, inspiring, effective message.  Change takes time and our own development as leaders and organizations takes time too.  Have patience and don’t give up.

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