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The Balance of Heart and Head

By Nell Edgington







In the work of social change there is a constant and necessary tension between heart–the human emotions of love, empathy, anger that force us to work for social change, and head–the strategy, systems, and measurement that demonstrate whether that change is happening. Two recent books provide a nice demonstration of this ongoing balancing act between head and heart. Work on Purpose by Lara Galinsky from Echoing Green describes how the early experiences of five social entrepreneurs shaped the social change careers they eventually were drawn to. And Robert Penna’s The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox, provides a great step-by-step guide for a nonprofit wanting to explore the increasingly necessary world of outcomes measurement. The two books taken together, although very different in tone, content and presentation, actually provide a nice reminder of the importance of balancing heart and head in social change efforts.

Work on Purpose chronicles five Echoing Green Fellows and the paths their lives took to eventually become social entrepreneurs. The stories are fascinating, inspiring and eye-opening. Any social entrepreneur will recognize their own journey here, from some pivotal moment in childhood when they felt empathy that drove them toward social change, to the frustrating pressure to stay with a more traditional career path, to eventually breaking free and melding their passion and talents to work for social change.

In writing this book, Lara hopes to encourage others who are just starting out, and perhaps those who have not yet found their right career, to reflect on their larger contribution and the role they want to play: “What social footprint do you want to make? What is your problem to own? What gifts do you have to offer to the world? What path do you want to take?” Indeed, there is increasing interest and energy among the millennial generation to create a career around solving social problems. This book encourages that trend and helps people make it a reality, as Lance Armstrong and Doug Ulman write in the introduction to the book: “We all have an obligation to bring positive change to our communities and our world. Fulfilling that obligation requires the boldness not only to envision a better world, but also to recognize your ability to to make that world a reality.”

But social change is not all about passion and the individual social entrepreneurs who bring their vision to reality. It also must be about measuring outcomes in order to determine if all of that effort is really resulting in anything. And to help bring clarity to the often misunderstood and muddy world of outcomes measurement, Robert Penna has written a new book. The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox, guides nonprofit leaders (but really, any social entrepreneur) through the process of understanding what outcomes are, how to create the right ones, and then how to measure them.

His book is a much-needed tool for social change efforts because although there is increasing interest in demonstrating outcomes, outcome measurement can be so difficult and costly to pursue. Many organizations have simply abandoned the effort because they can’t wrap their heads around it, let alone afford it. But Robert provides a step-by-step, practical, common-sense approach that allows organizations to understand the power of outcomes and create the right ones for them. Finally there is a tool that makes outcome measurement a potential reality for all social change organizations.

In any effort to create significant, sustainable social change you must balance an empathetic vision with a systematic, measurable way to execute on that vision. These two new books provide the social entrepreneur the tools to do both.

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (, a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.

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2 Comments to The Balance of Heart and Head

[…] has invested $30 million in 500 social entrepreneurs around the world. Galinsky is the co-author of Work on Purpose, which provides a framework for aligning passions with talents to achieve personal fulfillment and […]

[…] social change set. The book is a nice companion to the more case-study heavy Echoing Green book, Work on Purpose. But what is interesting about Making Good‘s approach and different than most social […]

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