Should NGOs do an Amazon?

The five Big Tech companies together are valued at about $3.5billion. The entire UK economy generates around $2.6billion.

The combined influence of Apple, Alphabet (who own Google), Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft is extraordinary, affects all of our lives on a daily basis, and is only going to increase. Amazon purchased Whole Foods last year, and this week the rights to some Premier League football – which Facebook were also interested in. Speaking of Facebook, they are reportedly spending upwards of $1bn on original content for Facebook Watch, due this summer. These companies are only going to get bigger – who might their next targets be? Tesco? Next? Coca-Cola? Over the next few years, industry experts are predicting that no company will be safe from the Big Five.

How can small business owners compete with these goliaths? Well, not head on, that’s for sure! Our only option is to be flexible enough to adapt quickly to new opportunities, and to forge deep connections with our customers in a way that the impersonal tech giants never can.

I wonder if these principles also apply to NGOs?

In ‘Cannibals With Forks’, John Elkington outlines how companies can benefit from the Triple Bottom Line – a model we are big fans of here at Raise. The book was published in 1997 – right at the time the internet exploded, which partly explains why his ideas have taken a while to gain traction. Suddenly, companies had this new technology they needed to master, and everything else got pushed to one side.

In the book, he talks of how there were already “too many NGOs for comfort”, and the intervening two decades have only seen the number grow. There has also been a growing sense that many NGOs have become inefficient, lumbering relics. Yes, they still do many wonderful things, but imagine how much bigger the impact might be if the big NGOs could find a way to work together?

Much like there will always be a space for the small business owner, there will also be a space for small, dynamic non-profits, able to respond to a specific situation quickly and efficiently.

Imagine a world where Amazon partner with some sort of ‘Save-the-Red-Oxfam’ organisation to tackle the really big problems, and where small business owners partner with small non-profits to deal effectively with a specific problem. Imagine the difference we could all make.


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