Pivots — Agents of Social Change – News is My Business

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Few books tell a personal story of improvement as well as the influence it had on the development of his professional life. The two life perspectives, personal and professional, come together in a story that communicates an unwavering commitment to social advancement.

“Pivots: Agents of Social Change” by Mariely Rivera-Hernández (Deletrea, 2021, pp. 156) is an easy-to-read book that offers reflections and lines of action that show how the culture of people and entities that become social pivots can change or direct the current course of the nonprofit industry in Puerto Rico.

It is divided into 11 chapters and its bibliography. Clearly marked, the first part of the book, from chapters one to four, is dedicated to the experiences that gave the author the motivation to put pen to paper to write his first book. It is a personal account, where its strength lies, the writing recounts the author’s experience of having led organizations, foundations and special projects, such as the Chana and Samuel Levis Foundation and the United for Puerto Rico, coordinating basic services in response to Hurricane María in 2017.

The author recounts the efforts and integrity of the organization and its members, including public accountability, the criteria of transparency in distribution and the great commitment of its staff to help communities and people affected by the hurricane.

In this process, the presence of certain personal and professional characteristics emerges, which the author identifies as those possessed by the social “pivots”. She studies the concept of being and behaving as pivots, agents who incite social change based on creativity and intellectual honesty. Characteristics of a social pivot can be traced back to self-directed actions, often motivated by poignant personal/professional experiences, to improve the social environment — local, community, regional, other.

According to the author, “a pivot is a person engaged in his environment, who collaborates and gets involved to bring about favorable changes to transform situations and channel them towards the common good”.

The second part of the book, chapters four to 11, is a detailed review of various studies, social research and case studies of local organizations that have generated results, with limited resources and time, aimed at the creation of social capital. . This raises the need to take a closer look at the scientific output generated by the country’s universities. In such a way that academia gets closer in its investigative work to what is happening in communities, through non-profit organizations (NPOs), because this also implies that NPOs are aware of academic diffusion trends, both in theoretical and practical aspects, which can be useful to them.

The author invites NPO industry leaders, with concrete examples of innovative practices, to reflect on the results of international studies that ultimately bring managers and leaders closer to innovation and thinking based on the fundamentals of design, whether infrastructural or graphic. Design-based thinking, developed at Stanford University, known as “Design Thinking”, is a way of offering a solution to a problem by focusing on the end user.

This involves not thinking like an administrator or manager, but rather like a designer who empathizes with the person or collective who will benefit from the services; one generates ideas, tests, verifies, and directs the design (in this case, community services) towards the end-user experience.

The author offers this approach to reflection, analysis and problem solving to creatively address multidisciplinary organizational challenges and not to repeat or copy, but to focus on the end: empathy with the beneficiaries and their search for a better quality of life.

The detail of the philanthropic system of grants and donations presented in the book is useful for the reader to understand the management methods of social investors-donors, the terms and cycles of grants, as well as the administrative operating schemes that govern it. .

It offers an alternative look at the donor-beneficiary relationship since the foundation of the pivot, inviting us to rethink this relationship not from the usual comfort of traditional grants but from a greater audacity always turned towards the beneficiaries. The author even proposes a “disruption to reach pivotal donors” that envisions training NPO managers in practices of transparency, accountability, evaluation of programs and prosecutors, management of technology and social networks and , in addition, to their acquisition of greater knowledge of the investment system used in philanthropic funds.

Managers and leaders of organizations, who continue and persist in keeping organizations functioning by providing services to excluded communities, are often presented with “leadership” models that generally promise better results, more performance in less time. , from a neoliberal organizational vision. . In other words, assimilate an NPO that aims to create social capital to a for-profit enterprise.

This is known not to work. The experience and training of these managers and leaders is also valid and valuable, so it is a mistake to underestimate their methods and try to replace them or juxtapose neoliberal tendencies. The author recognizes this and offers a sensitive and real approach to best prepare organizations for exceptional times, such as what has already been experienced with natural phenomena and the economy, as well as what is surely to come (vulnerability economy, environmental fragility, emigration, aging of the population, among others).

The book is far from the one commonly found in other publications that claim to give “recipes” from a “formula for success” perspective. It offers a multitude of tools and techniques as well as a useful overview for managers and leaders of NPOs.

The book stems from the unique experience of this social entrepreneur who demonstrates a sincere trajectory of thinking and analyzing her own experiences and researching the literature on social change (which is already an academic category in the study of anthropology and sociology) of the possible paths-responses-pivots to the challenges and particularities faced by NPOs in Puerto Rico and in many parts of the world. This allows, without going into simplistic formulas, to present a positive and viable vision of the future despite the circumstances we are currently experiencing as a society.

This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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