Doing Good Well
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Chapter 0
Of Paradigms and Doing Good

The way we see the world can change the world. Such is the power of paradigms.

Paradigms are mental models of how we view various aspects of life. Since paradigms frame our view of reality, they influence how we behave in relation to those aspects of reality.

The importance of paradigms in the business world was popularized by Joel Barker1, the author and futurist. He defines a paradigm as a set of rules and regulations that first, establishes or defines the boundaries; and secondly, tells us how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.

Barker cites the example of the watch industry to illustrate the impact paradigms have on our decisions and actions. In 1968, the Swiss dominated the watch industry with a worldwide market share of 65 percent. By 1980, their market share had collapsed to less than 10 percent. What happened in between was the entry of the Japanese and others with the electronic quartz watch.

The irony, as Barker points out, is that it was the Swiss themselves who first invented the electronic quartz watch. But Swiss manufacturers rejected the idea from their own researchers because it did not fit their paradigm of what a watch should look like. At the time, watches were mechanical instruments. Hence the idea of an electronic watch devoid of mainsprings, bearings and gears moving in unison, was an anomaly. Electronic watches represented what Barker calls a “paradigm shift.” Seiko, a Japanese company, saw the electronic watch on display at the World Watch Congress in 1967, and the rest was history.

Sector Structure & Governance. This section looks at the macro aspects of how the charity sector is structured differently from the commercial sector, and the implications for governance and regulation.

Giving. This covers the various aspects of philanthropic giving and volunteerism from both a corporate and individual standpoint.

 Social Innovation. This section covers two new social models: social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. I have also included here the current philanthropic revolution since the chapter highlights innovations in philanthropic giving (though, of course, it could also have been included in the Giving section).

Doing Good Well? This is, in a sense, a miscellaneous section of four chapters. There are two chapters on quirks in the charity sector. A case study on the National Kidney Foundation then applies the respective paradigms in the context of the largest charity in Singapore. The last chapter wraps up the book by bringing the various paradigms together in a holistic framework and describes how the charity ecosystem is shaping up to do good better.

This book is meant for two groups of people. First, my colleagues in the nonprofit sector: hopefully, this book can lend some fresh perspectives to their environment and charity work.

Secondly, my colleagues in the business world: my goal is to help explain why some of the assumptions we take for granted in business may or may not be applicable in the nonprofit sector.

For both sets of readers, I hope that any insights gleaned here will help us work together to shape the charity sector for the better. I strongly believe that “heart work” can be made so much more effective and meaningful if it is also led by our heads.

One of my passions is science fiction and comic books. Those of you who have watched the television series, Heroes will recall the tag line, “Save the cheerleader, save the world!”5 Well, I can imagine my hero of paradigms, Joel Barker rephrasing that to, “Change the paradigm, change the world!” And changing the world is what charity is about.

Happy reading!
1 Joel Arthur Barker is author of Paradigms: The Business of Discovering The Future (Harper Business, 1992). The book is also published as Future Edge: Discovering the New Paradigms of Success (William Morrow and Company, 1992). The story of the watch making industry is found in its first chapter.
2 The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre was set up in July 1999 as the National Volunteer Centre, initially to promote volunteerism in Singapore across all sectors and all levels of society. In 2004, its mission and name was extended to include philanthropy.

SALT started as a bimonthly publication of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. It targets those who give and those who receive. Launched in January 2004, it carries news on happenings among nonprofits and givers, and covers issues of interest to the nonprofits, volunteers and donors.

4 Other publications include The Straits Times , The Business Times , The Social Service Journal and Social Spaces .

This was the tagline for the first season of Heroes , which debuted on NBC in the U.S. in September 2006.