The worst thing in strategy is to introduce something with great fanfare and great hope that it is going to change the world, and five years later say, 'Well, it's doing all right. It's a little specialty.' That's failure. That's misallocation of resources. - Peter Drucker - Managing The Non-Profit Organization
The challenge for nonprofits is that unlike in the business world where promising ideas are tried all the time and just a few succeed, the nonprofit world of today expects every promising idea that is funded to succeed. It really shouldn't be surprising or even scary that some ideas fail. What is surprising is that a whole lot more don't. After all, failure frees up resources for the truly successful ideas to flourish.
Our society has come to the right conclusion - that there are many marginally successful or duplicative nonprofits and nonprofit programs - and has prescribed the completely wrong medicine: Don't start new nonprofits and don't fund anything that has not yet been proven.
This medicine leads to a broken funding model. It forces individuals and organizations with new ideas to "sell sell sell." They need to convince the powers that be that their promising idea is so good, that it is worth funding even though it is too new to have a proven track record. If the would-be ideapreneurs aren't successful with the selling, there won't be any funding at all.
So where do these ideapreneurs allocate their resources? Idea marketing, fanfare, hope mongering.
Where should they allocate their resources? Good design, execution, evaluation.
What we need is a new path forward that allows us to take risks if the payoffs are promising enough without the need to over-analyze them or resort to exaggeration. We need a way to design programs, monitor them, and then evaluate whether they truly are a good allocation of resources. Ideas that don't measure up need to be tweaked or pruned, not in a manner that destroys the people supporting and executing them, but in a way that frees up those resources to pursue other promising ideas. What we need is good innovation practices.