The ethical alignment of mission, strategy and investment

I had an interesting conversation the other day with Nick Moraitis about the ethics and alignment of mission, strategy and investment in social change. Very often social entrepreneurs will possess incredibly ambitious goals about what they want to achieve. This may include eliminating poverty, stopping global warming, or reducing unemployment amongst a certain part of the population.

As Nick pointed out to me, there can often be massive gaps between the mission that is pursued, activities that are taken to achieve that and the budgets that exist to fulfill that mission. Is it ethical to set a goal that is grossly unachievable and selling that unattainable mission to beneficiaries, funders or supporters?

This lack of alignment between mission, strategy and investment is very common, and not necessarily because of any deliberate intent to mislead. In my experience there are a number of factors that contribute to this including a culture of inflating possibility, lack of skills in business planning, poor design processes and a lack of external reference checks around mission.

In terms of skill gaps there is a general lack of understanding of what it actually costs to achieve change. For me I was raised in the school of doing things on the cheap. I have become adept at finding free or low cost ways of achieving change at a local level, and have been involved in a bunch of initiatives that have done just that. I have less experience in working on complex global problems that require heavy financial investment and multidimensional strategies to achieve the mission. If I was to pursue the solving of a complex global problem, I personally would need a lot of external input in the design of an appropriate strategy and Read more