As in business, smart talk and unchecked jargon in the social sector often leads to inaction, inefficiency, and failed projects. What we need instead are clear, plain words that readily create a shared understanding, and lead to more-productive projects and greater impact. Here are a few terms that commonly lead social innovators into the smart-talk trap:

  1. Scale: Scale is smart when it builds solutions that solve a significant social problem. But the term “scale” can mean different things to different people and in different contexts. “Scaling up,” “operating at scale,” and “economies of scale,” for example, are all different ambitions and require different approaches to achieve.
  2.  Sustainability: Sustainability is smart if it means a change for the better can endure.
  3. Innovation Innovation is smart if it generates better solutions to problems. Innovation can mean coming up with breakthrough solutions that make a difference. It can also mean incrementally making something more effective.
  4. Collaboration Collaboration is smart if it powers change. Organizations that share a common cause often have different ways of working and different views of the problem, but as long as everyone is clear about what they mean—as long as they don’t fall into the smart-talk trap—discussion can translate to action.
  5. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion  Which dimensions of diversity matter most? What do we mean by equity vs. equality? How do we know when people really feel included or safe to express themselves?
  6. Systems Thinking Systems thinking is a smart way to create a vision of the future and understand how to get there. But the fact that reasonable people can debate what it really means makes it ripe for smart talk.

Read the full article about smart action by Jon Huggett and Dan Berelowitz at Stanford Social Innovation Review.