In 2000, Jed Emerson introduced the concept of Blended Value as a broader way of thinking about the nature of value creation by organizations (whether for-profit, nonprofit or hybrid) and through the application of capital (whether philanthropic, below-market or market rate).
He developed the concept following a decade (1990-2000) of conversations with social entrepreneurs, founders of for-profit mission-driven companies, social investors, strategic/venture philanthropists, folks involved in sustainable development and so on—a decade at the end of which he realized he was having the same conversation with hundreds of folks, but each set of actors felt their particular community and issues were unique.
What Jed Emerson concluded, however, was that these were all ultimately discussions about the nature of value—and they reflected an emerging understanding of value as “both/and” as opposed to “either/or;” they were discussions about value as a function of economic returns with social and environmental impact. The issue wasn’t about whether you were for-profit or non-profit or philanthropist or investor; rather, it was about the nature of the value you sought to create over the trajectory of your life.
Jed coined the term Blended Value to reflect what he felt was the reality that value was whole and that what all of us were bumping up against was a bifurcated world which asked us to accept that one had to be either for-profit or non-profit; an investor or a philanthropist. In contrast, he felt what we should really be focused upon was maximizing the total value of our companies, communities and capital.
Over recent years, we’ve seen the introduction of hundreds of articles/reports, dozens of new organizations and countless events, all (to my mind…) circling around our common challenge of framing and executing strategies to help us transcend this bifurcated world we find ourselves within.