"Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up."Bill Clinton
An Interview with Solution Practitioners
As many of you know, we spent much of last week at the Skoll World Forum, enjoying remarkable speeches from the likes of Jeff Skoll, Jaqueline Novogratz, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and many more. Behind the scenes, we were able to conduct a private interview with the team behind The Resilience Exchange, a new online web tool for tracking and sharing solutions for problems our world faces. We sat down with their Founder and ‘Instigator at Large,’ Astrid Scholz, her colleague and business lead, Jon Kruse, and one of their principal funders and supporters, Nancy Kete, Managing Director of Rockefeller Foundation.
MFG: In a nutshell, what is the Resilience Exchange?
Astrid Scholz (AS): It is a web-based platform that makes it easy and rewarding to share, discover, and repurpose solutions for people and the planet.
MFG: Can you explain the vision for this new sharing exchange?
AS: The vision for the Resilience Exchange originated at my old organisation, Ecotrust, with the belief that what we need is not necessarily more solutions, but to discover what’s already working out in the world. From Ecotrust’s perspective, all of our best ideas are regional by design. What if they could be discovered, adapted and shaped for other geographies? So we are looking to solve for the missing infrastructure in the social change industry.
We’re building what I like to think of as the Amazon.com for social change. We would like it to be simple for people to find and access good solutions for people and the planet.
Nancy Kete (NK): I really liked this idea when Astrid first brought it up three years ago. It seemed vital and worth investing in from the beginning. Ultimately, there is a lot that needs to be done to build resilience around the world. Finding a way to encourage grantees to research and find solutions similar to their own work, and then adapt it, is a great shortcut to great programme work. This is a real opportunity to accelerate resilience building in all different ways, making it easier for people to get what they need.
MFG: So how will you drive people to use the Exchange and share their info?
AS: We’re making it easy to convene and curate a community of solutions around particular topics or sectors. This is ideal for Foundations bringing together their grantees, or for organisations working to fight climate change, for example. Rather than relying on getting together at conferences like the Skoll World Forum, they can explore new opportunities online.
As content richness grows, individuals will look for ideas and solutions. There are also interesting hidden incentives. We are all looking for more resources, so people may as well pay for consulting services to adapt shared solutions into new areas
NK: There are also a lot of people working in mission-driven groups, both large and small, and there is often a frustration there. The frustration stems from not knowing what other people are doing, or how to appropriate those ideas, or knowing why they did or didn’t work. Not everyone wants to grow and become a monopoly. A lot of people see the opportunity for a number of players to stay in the field and share solutions. For instance, the water and sanitation sector suffers from insufficient knowledge about what works fastest, and why.
AS: People are already thinking about how to share solutions, often through building websites, but there is no guarantee that an initiative or an organisation will survive. As such, the need is also a shared repository, a library of solutions that persists.
MFG: So who has already supported you and shared their solutions?
AS: We had ten partners who collaborated on the design and informed the initial prototype, and then a minimum viable product. Our work has been greatly informed and influenced by EcoTrust, Context Parnets, Development Alternatives, Forest Trends, Grameen Foundation, Isalnd Institute, Mercy Corps, Oxfam American and the Rockefeller Foundation. Out of that group, half a dozen solution portals have now been created, with more to follow.
NK: We committed to building four, with the first for place-based resilience projects. We’re inviting some of the resilience grantees to share their information and solutions on the Resilience Exchange.
AS: We would like to hit a critical mass of diversity of solutions, geography and sectors. At the moment, we’re looking for expressions of interest in building solution communities, and to bring in more private sector and government partners, all before we unveil the public portal.
MFG: Nancy, the Rockefeller Foundation has been a key supporter for three years. What drew you in?
NK: I liked the idea that we could have something that would shorten the time between identification and delivery of real solutions, getting rid of inefficient and wasteful steps. Nobody is good at everything, and the belief that we shouldn’t learn from each other just makes it harder to build great nonprofits and great solutions to the many problems our world faces. I want to know what nonprofits will do differently to what has already worked.
I also think it is important that foundations use a portion of their budget on risk and invest themselves into projects. And this is a very clever risk!
Jon Kruse (JK): Our three value propositions are accelerating solutions to market, efficacy and efficiency. We allow people to start already three-quarters of the way there, rather than build new (or old!) solutions from scratch.
MFG: How has the emergence of the sharing economy developed your idea?
JK: The notion of community has really helped shaped our work. We’ve seen communities built around great ideas, like Airbnb and Uber, which allow the user to be caretakers and ensure high user engagement and satisfaction.
MFG: So how do you see our audience getting involved with RE?
AS: The MFG audience is a great cross section of thought leadership and practitioners, so we would love to hear feedback on ways in which they might use the platform in practice. We are specifically interested in people with data and technical backgrounds to sign up to the beta account and help us refine the product. The more feedback we get, the faster we can refine the features that practitioners find useful.
MFG: Last question – what is the future ambition for the Resilience Exchange?
AS: We’re currently raising a round of capital whilst also looking to really enhance our user experience. For us, curation is king, queen and much more! So we look forward to hiring more staff and creating delight for our users.
JK: Our number one priority by the end of the year is to build five communities that find value with respect to how they are utilising the solutions. We certainly want Nancy to be delighted.
NK: I want my grantees to be delighted and derive lots of value from the tool. I want to hear someone learn about a great solution on the platform and say “Oh, that’s how they did it!”
JK: We look forward to hearing the first solution that was designed using the building blocks provided by the shared information.
This article was originally published online at Digital Impact