To What End?

05/12/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The three words that have served me best throughout my business and nonprofit careers are "To what end?"

That is Mario Morino, one of the most astute social entrepreneurs, funders and commentators out there.   Though Mario and I work in different spheres of the social space -- and have only met a couple of times -- the impact of his thinking, advice, and moral support have had an outsized effect on me.  What I particularly admire in Mario is his willingness to get out there and experiment vigorously, learn from the experience, confront things that did not work and amend his approach accordingly.  In the end, that is how we make progress:  Gain an Insight ==> Experiment ==> Learn ==> Develop a New Insight ==> Experiment ==> etc.

Further, Mario does this in a public way to encourage others to emulate him.  In the essay from which the above is quoted, he concludes that nonprofit funders (himself included!) have put far too much emphasis on measurement by grantees, and not enough on gaining clarity about what the grantee is trying to achieve.  He argues that, as a result, many grantees are performing better and better against the wrong outcomes.  In a subsequent piece, Mario provides some thoughts on how to turn the ship around.  Both pieces are well worth reading.

PS:  For an excellent treatment of the Gain an Insight ==> Experiment ==> Learn ==> Develop a New Insight ==> Experiment ==> approach, I strongly recommend a new book called Getting to Plan B, by John Mullins and Randy Komisar (Randy was a key early advisor to Mari and me when we launched GlobalGiving.