Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

The Uncommon Table: Cultivating Breakthrough Interactions

One of the things I cherish about my work here at the Lewis Institute for Social Innovation is the ability to operate at the intersection of the worlds of business, community, academia and policy. I have always believed that when you are at that intersection you are able to mobilize and activate people to do things that they normally don’t or wouldn’t do – this is where you can start to effect real, lasting positive change. But, how do you bring these worlds together in meaningful ways?

This is something we’ve been exploring for years now here, and what we keep coming back to is that you can’t keep doing the same things – bringing the same types of stakeholders together in the same ways – and expect different results. But it’s also not about going totally rogue and only operating on the fringes. We need to bring together those core stakeholders (the usual suspects) with some of the outsiders (the unusual suspects) who may have an innovative or different perspective that can move the issue in a way it’s never been moved before. It’s a methodology we’re calling The Uncommon Table™:

The Uncommon Table™ is a unique design approach bringing multiple stakeholders together with the distinct purpose of catalyzing action in addressing a particular problem or social challenge. No one sector can solve any one problem and, traditionally, sectors meet within designs based on an adversarial model – zero sum actions, assumption of scarce resources, and established mindsets. The Uncommon Table™ is based on a different design – one not focused on deficits, but rather on abundance – where individual sectors find their self-interests better served in a community of both the “usual” and “unusual” suspects.

We refer to the outcomes of such thinking and acting as “breakthrough interactions” rather than breakthrough innovations. In fact, the world already has tremendous breakthrough innovations. What we crave and desire are “breakthrough interactions” that reconfigure relationships in such a way that new and expanded social impacts and innovations come about not because of the what, but because of the who and the how.

And clearly, others are thinking about this as well. This week, this methodology is being used as the driving principle behind the RISE Impact Summit and Expo in Mumbai. We could not be more thrilled to see our ideas resonating on the other side of the globe and are excited to see what The Uncommon Table™ will bring together next!