Chief Asshole

Earlier today, as a part of a plenary discussion at the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, I was appointed ‘Chief Asshole’ as part of the effort to drive innovation in the social impact space.  It is an honor to hold this title.

How exactly did it happen?

We were talking about the need for innovation in the nonprofit/social impact sector – both in terms of changing the way organizations think and operate, but also with regard to how we focus on finding solutions to the complex problems that we face as a society (these are, of course, the themes that I take up in my book, Shift & Reset).  I suggested that brands, technology companies, and others on the for-profit side were, in many cases, doing more harm than good by pursing socially oriented efforts without fully understanding how to drive the kinds of meaningful, measurable change that is needed.  The partnerships that exist between brands and nonprofits, under the banner of cause marketing for example, do little to identify solutions – instead providing marketing and corporate social responsibility benefits to brands at the expense of real impact.   

I challenged the nonprofit/social impact community to call out efforts that were not helping to drive innovation or pursue solutions to the most pressing issues we face.  I suggested that nonprofit/social impact organizations needed to collaborate with companies in ways that allow for their expertise and experience to more fully and appropriately utilized. And I told the crowd that we needed to do a better job standing up for ourselves, our knowledge, and our work – and as a part of that we should be holding corporations accountable for prioritizing their own reputation at the expense of achieving real outcomes.

I finished my rant by saying… “look, if I need to be the asshole who says those things, and calls people out, and makes that case so others don’t have to do it… I will."  And then Beth Kanter (@kanter), one of the leading voices in the nonprofit technology space and the moderator for our plenary, officially gave me the title of Chief Asshole.

As I said, it is an honor to hold this title.  But I am not the only person who is willing to be a part of this conversation.  This will be a team effort.  We’ll be a team of assholes.  And together, we will shake things up.