VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 25 March 2010, in Blog

Lumping and splitting concerns placing specific or individual examples into categories. The lumper vs. splitter difficulty occurs when someone or something needs to create unambiguous classifications and assign examples to them.

A “lumper” is an individual who takes a holistic view of a definition and assigns examples broadly, assuming that differences are not as important as similarities.

A “splitter” is an individual who takes precise views of definitions, and creates new categories to classify samples that differ in key ways. For social entrepreneurs a core issue is profit and how different people approach it philosophically and practically.

A question. Did we differentiate and split from the rest of the social economy sector because others  wanted to represent us, did not ‘get us’ or were unwilling to accept our challenges to their hegemony? What are these differences anyway? Answers on a postcard please?

Anyway, with an election coming up how do we differentiate our message(s) to politicians and the media – one remedy – go on the attack and take charge of the discourse.

Let us start with the primacy of social mission, the necessity of profit and the de facto ambivalence some of us have towards democratic accountability – because we are trying to run businesses. We really shouldn’t pretend that participation by the few equals thriving democratic accountability. That is being disingenuous. Our society has changed; folk don’t participate like they used to. Maybe a social entrepreneur could address this through some techy ICT solution.

Anyway, what other messages do we want to deliver? How about the stats option? Big numbers grab attention and we have politicians to convince. So, how about a campaign with large numbers showing the extent of our success, the length of our reach and how many votes we can muster?

Then there is the entrepreneurial thing. Muhammad Yunus explains well the difference between non-market and market social entrepreneurs. Can we? Or do our messages get muddled with ambiguity concerning terms like business, charity, voluntary organisations and projects. Similarly, can we call a spade a spade or do we confuse the public  with our addiction to euphemisms and fuzzy language because we may upset some ‘lumpers’ if we dare to ‘split’ and say that some organisations are not the type of (market) social enterprises that we are focusing on.

Finally, who speaks for us? On the basis that we won’t all agree with what is being said, how do we get core messages (with subtle distinctions) put out there. I suggest, that if you are a political person that you engage with the Coalition and get the dialogue going – otherwise we’ll get what the civil servants want, irrespective of who wins the election.