In his new book, Matt Manos urges social entrepreneurs to consider the social and environmental crises of the future

On Monday, activist and entrepreneur Matthew Manos published a manifesto on the future of social enterprise – or more accurately, a call for innovators to free themselves from the “reactive” mindset and start looking at ways to proactively fix the world.

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The book, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise, challenges the traditional belief that social good can only be done after something terrible happens. “Reaction is necessary,” writes Manos in the book, “but reaction can no longer be revered as the holy grail, or singular expectation, of the new social entrepreneur.”

By failing to encourage innovators to think beyond past and present crises, Manos fears that social enterprise risks placing itself on permanent defense. “The new social entrepreneur must also be preemptive,” he writes, and able to tackle “a new suite of previously unimagined problems, as well as the next evolutions for the present day’s most persistent social and environmental issues.”

In addition to Manos’ manifesto, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise contains a forward by futurist Stuart Candy and content from over 20 contributors, including Jake Dunagan, James Hughes, Nathan Shedroff and Bruce Sterling. The ebook is now available as a pay-what-you-want download; readers who pay $25 or more will receive a printed edition when the book is released in September.

In an email to Planet Experts, Manos wrote that his goal for the book is three-fold:

“[1] Shed light on a potentially dangerous trend in social enterprise: an obsession with the present-day vs. a contemplation around the future implications of a social entrepreneur’s work. [2] Encourage designers and social entrepreneurs to see entrepreneurship and business as a medium of design and of creative inquiry, not just of commerce. [3] Provide tools to get people motivated and inspired to start their own future-inspired enterprise.”

Matt Manos, Founder and Managing Director of verynice design studio. (Photo: verynice)

Matt Manos, Founder and Managing Director of verynice design studio. (Photo: verynice)

The problem with today’s social enterprise, says Manos, is that its incentives are the complete opposite of traditional for-profit enterprise. “While traditional for-profit enterprise is rewarded for investing in visions of the future, social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders are rewarded for reacting to problems that already exist.” This reaction is important to healthy social enterprise, he argues, but it limits entrepreneurs capacity to improve the world.

The world has plenty of problems still in need of solutions, Manos told Planet Experts, and his new manifesto “is not trying to dismiss all of the necessary work of traditional social enterprise and nonprofit management.” However, he is adamant that the future be seen as an ally, not an unknown quantity. “[W]e need to do even more,” he said. “We need a new wave of social entrepreneurs who can balance reaction to existing problems with the time it takes to consider that which has yet to happen.

“No one has a crystal ball, but there are some amazing methodologies that exist in the strategic foresight field that make this easier. To me, this is so important because of the mission I try to stay true to in everything I do in life: enable legacy. Considering the future, and designing for the future, is the best shot we all have at enabling that legacy to be a good one.”

Matthew Manos is the founder and Managing Director of verynice, a global design­ strategy consultancy whose clientele includes UNICEF, Google and The American Heart Association. Planet Experts has previously written on his groundbreaking work offering pro bono design services to nonprofits.

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