This is the second time in history a woman has been awarded the prize. Here's how you can continue the social-impact momentum.

Another year has gone by. Boom. How does that feel? Do you feel proud and bursting with energy? Or perhaps the feeling that you simply continued on the same trajectory as last year, without even really pausing to step off the treadmill, look up and ask yourself what your deepest and wildest dreams are? We believe there is a spark of madness within each and everyone of us, the things that truly move us, the dreams we are not prepared to let go of yet — dreams about making a difference, for ourselves and others.

Make A Difference (MAD) is a global community of pioneering changemakers, a Sweden-based organization that works in partnership with institutions, civil society organisations, and entrepreneurs around the world to catalyze leaps in social innovation. Due to MAD’s strong advocacy for experimental approaches, root-cause-focus and local collaborations, the organisation was asked to comment on the Swedish Riksbank’s prize in economic science to Alfred Nobel’s memory, announced by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This is their take on how a more aware leadership can support you in living and leading lives and organisations that make a difference as we celebrate and embark on a new decade.

We won’t solve today’s challenges with the same mindset that created them. We are at a pivotal point in time. This calls for a radical shift of paradigm. In that light, they distill key insights from this year’s Nobel Prices in Economy — insights that shows us just how thin the veil is between inner and outer worlds, how what many of us know to be true for personal leadership, growth, and impact is also true from an organizational perspective. And that truth is this: we need to move beyond quick gains, recognizing that the only way to truly grow is to explore and test, to dare going deep in root causes, coupled with the power of co-creating.

In a time where many “leaders” look for quick gains, both financially and politically, this Nobel Prize refreshingly shows how another, more aware leadership is possible. Our vision is a world where “MAD is the new normal,” where exploring outside the mainstream narrative and paradigm in a way that makes a difference is the norm rather than the exception. With that in mind, we couldn’t be happier about the nomination of this year’s Nobel Laureates and the development of a thought leadership that we hope will inspire change-makers and leaders across organizations and institutions, especially with regards to:

  1. Experimental Exploration

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer were awarded the prize “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” At a time when the only thing that is constant is change and the rate of change is constantly increasing, we cannot solve today’s problems with the same mindset that created them, which means we have to dare to experiment. Often in development work, there is a need for predictable outcomes. Donors and impact investors demand predictable results, which often focuses efforts on tackling an immediate, surface-level need. It takes real courage to delve below the quick and predictable wins, to embrace the complexity of working on the root causes — a prerequisite for addressing the systemic shifts that will be required for the next generation of societal solutions. This prize illustrates the need to shift from a mindset that measures the isolated impact of individual initiatives to a sector that values experimentation, shared learning, and the distillation of insights that we can all collectively build upon.

  1. Anchoring in the Local Context

The emphasis the Laureates put on not fighting poverty based on caricatures is extremely important at a time when we see many tendencies towards “us and them” polarization. Simplified stereotypes provide a strong indication that local communities are not involved in the conversation or co-creation of solutions — an “intervention” that is not locally created or owned overlooks the nuances of the local context and is not sustainable, whereas locally led solutions that are the result of smaller, carefully designed local experiments are resilient and can more easily adapt to changing conditions.

  1. Embracing Collaboration and Diversity

The social challenges we face will not be solved by any single individual, discipline, or industry; we need to come together across borders. Therefore, the award winners’ emphasis of the collective effort and the diversity among them gladdens us deeply. This is the second time in history a woman has been awarded the prize and although the Laureates expressed surprise at being awarded the prize at such a young age, we believe that with over 50 percent of the world’s population under 30, we will see even younger social innovators winning these type of prizes in future.

MAD Questions For You:

Here are some questions for you to play with, ones that we’ve enjoyed while experimenting with root causes in communities across MAD Journeys ranging from Ugandan hills to Amazonian jungles:

  • Experimental Exploration: Let go of expectations. Go deep: What truly Makes you MAD? And what experiments can you undertake to explore how you can make a difference today?
  • Anchoring in the Local Context: Let go of stereotypes. Who shares your passion? See the overlooked: who are you not engaging, and why? What unholy alliances can you manifest?
  • Embracing Collaboration and Diversity: What is the dream you are not prepared to let go of yet? The first step to realize it is to articulate it: share it with others. Then can you uncover who shares your madness, the deep desire to make a difference. Impact is multiplied by diversity!

Wishing you a New Year and decade that makes a difference!

Emelie Ekblad

Emelie Ekblad is the co-founder of MAD, a global community of change-makers. MAD Pioneers operate in more than 40 countries across Africa, the Middle East, North and Latin America, Europe, and Asia, with more than 60 organizations that range across industries and sectors.

Ekblad’s background ranges brands such as Sony, LG, and Microsoft, institutions like the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation as well as numerous startups. She’s held leadership team positions within corporate and civil society organizations, driving and supporting startups as well as nonprofits with presence across Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the Middle East.

Fiona Hazell

Fiona Hazell is the co-founder of MAD. Her background spans 10 years of brand strategy across African markets. Since relocating to Sweden she has designed and led international accelerator and fellowship programs on behalf of organizations such as Social Entrepreneurship Forum, Seeds of Peace, Impact Invest Scandinavia, and Inclusive Business Sweden. She sits on numerous Social Innovation review panels on behalf of the Swedish Development Agency (Sida) and the European Union (EU).

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