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Oct 18, 2012
Fromthe New York Times

An Enlightened Leader

CS featured in New York Times

By David Bornstein

One of the benefits of writing a column about solutions is that it offers an alternative lens through which to view the world. This week is the second anniversary of Fixes. Much of my time over the past few years has been spent talking to people about the creative responses to social problems that are emerging across the country and around the globe. It turns out there’s no shortage of these stories. I’m often struck by how much ingenuity is out there and being directed to repair the world, and how little we hear about it.

We’re seeing a more rational understanding of cause and effect.

As a result, I often find myself out of step with friends whose views are shaped by the big news stories — money-driven politics, unemployment, war and violence, seemingly irreparable education and health systems. After looking at hundreds of examples of social change efforts, I see a side of reality that goes unreported: namely, that we’re getting smarter about the way we’re addressing social problems. In fact, I would go so far as to say we’re on the verge of a breakthrough — maybe even a new Enlightenment.

If that sounds like an overstatement, consider the comparison. The Enlightenment was a period in history when fanciful thinking gave way to a more rational understanding of cause and effect. It promoted the scientific method, challenged ideas grounded in tradition, faith or superstition, and advocated the restructuring of governments and social institutions based on reason. (It was not always so enlightened, however. While Enlightenment thinkers sought to advance the public good — producing documents like The Bill of Rights — they also used reason to justify colonialism and slavery.)

Today’s Enlightenment stems from new understandings and practices that have taken hold in the social sector and are producing better and measurable results against a range of problems.

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