Saturday, March 11, 2006

A fascinating article on organizing a distribution channel: churches around the world

As every successful entrepreneur knows, creating an effective supply chain and distribution channel is as important to selling a product as the product itself.

Recently I came upon a very fascinating article: The Cellular Church, by Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blinkand The Tipping Point.)

Here's a couple of excerpts, but you'll appreciate reading the whole thing.
In the past twenty years, as the enthusiasm for publicly supported welfare has waned, churches have quietly and steadily stepped in to fill the gaps. And who are the churchgoers donating all that time and money? People in small groups. Membership in a small group is a better predictor of whether people volunteer or give money than how often they attend church, whether they pray, whether they've had a deep religious experience, or whether they were raised in a Christian home. Social action is not a consequence of belief, in other words. I don't give because I believe in religious charity. I give because I belong to a social structure that enforces an ethic of giving. "Small groups are networks," the Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow, who has studied the phenomenon closely, says. "They create bonds among people. Expose people to needs, provide opportunities for volunteering, and put people in harm's way of being asked to volunteer. That's not to say that being there for worship is not important. But, even in earlier research, I was finding that if people say all the right things about being a believer but aren't involved in some kind of physical social setting that generates interaction, they are just not as likely to volunteer.

At the very end, he makes the following observation about solving the world's problems.

There is only one thing big enough to handle the world's problems, and that is the millions and millions of churches spread out around the world," he says. "I can take you to thousands of villages where they don't have a school. They don't have a grocery store, don't have a fire department. But they have a church. They have a pastor. They have volunteers. The problem today is distribution. In the tsunami, millions of dollars of foodstuffs piled up on the shores and people couldn't get it into the places that needed it, because they didn't have a network. Well, the biggest distribution network in the world is local churches. There are millions of them, far more than all the franchises in the world. Put together, they could be a force for good.

As we think about creating a more innovative and entrepreneurial economy, we need to think about what the cellular distribution channel for that might be.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Ellie Wilson said...

There has been increased interest in "giving circles" in the last years which bear out exactly what the Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow was describing. People gather as friends, new friends, colleagues and neighbors and decide to donate money to help others of their choosing. There is a wonderful group in Greenville, SC called Dining for Women started by Marsha Wallace three years ago. Check us out New chapters are needed in SC as well as in any other part of the world.