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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: May

By Nell Edgington

In our ongoing blog series, 10 Great Social Innovation Reads, below are my top 10 picks for the best reads in the world of social innovation in May.

But I’m sure I missed some great stuff, so please add your favorites from the past month in the comments.

  1. Three new books released recently argue in various ways that philanthropists need to get better at giving money away. The Economist gives us the skinny: Giving for Results.
  2. News organizations are having to reinvent their funding models, some of their innovative ideas for bringing money in the door could spark some thinking in the nonprofit world: Going beyond grants: Eight new ways news nonprofits are raising revenue.
  3. The Dowser blog argues that recent efforts to re-imagine the great American city aren’t bold enough: Creating the Sustainable City: Are Imagination and Leadership Enough
  4. Newsweek investigates the philanthropic investments billionaires have made in American public schools and claims that the results of those investments have come up quite short: Back to School for the Billionaires
  5. New Google research on people’s use of smartphones holds some interesting lessons for nonprofits.
  6. Any entrepreneur, social or not, has to fight moments of depression on the road to social change, the A Smart Bear blog tells us how to Fight Mini-Burn Out.
  7. From Amy Sample Ward, nonprofit social media maven, comes a great post about crowdsourcing versus community-sourcing and how and when nonprofits should take advantage of each.
  8. In a recent interview, Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen, argues that nonprofits need to rethink how they position themselves in order to really “move the needle”
  9. Nonprofit Tech 2.0 gives us Six Online Fundraising Tools You May Never Have Heard Of
  10. The Nonprofit Finance Fund is doing something pretty exciting with capital. They are directing $10 million in “change capital” to 10 performing arts organizations to help them “prepare for future growth and make changes to the way they operate.” NFF has a special page with resources and case studies about what they are doing: The Case for Change Capital in the Arts.

Photo Credit: Robby van Moor

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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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5 Comments to 10 Great Social Innovation Reads: May

Amy Sample Ward
June 1, 2011

Thanks so much for including my blog post in your round-up! Some of the other links are new to me so I’m diving right back in to keep reading 🙂

Nell Edgington
June 2, 2011

You’re welcome. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks!

June 2, 2011

Hi Nell,

Interested in your take on social innovation, and if you have a definition you work with. A lot of the above seem very much like social enterprise, rather than breakthrough social innovation. Interested in the usage of the two terms being intermixed, but in my mind they’re really quite separate (although social innovation can also be carried out by social enterprises).

Thanks for the links either way – very interesting reads.


Nell Edgington
June 3, 2011

Sam, because social entrepreneurship and innovation are nascent fields the terms are still being defined. I have heard people use social innovation, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise interchangeably. At first it frustrated me because I very much believe that semantics are critical to meaningful discussion. However, I realized that an enormous amount of time was being spent (and perhaps wasted) on defining terms, so I gave up on such rigid definitions.

That said, here is how I define the terms for my own use. Social innovation means any kind of new ideas and models for solving social problems and can include models, organizations, funding mechanisms, legal structures, etc. Social entrepreneurship is when individuals or organizations use resources to solve social problems at scale. And social enterprise is when a nonprofit sells a good or service.

I know that these definitions don’t fit with others interpretations. And as I said, there are many competing and overlapping definitions out there. Instead of spending time debating terms, I’d rather talk about the really cool ideas out there that people are employing to solve critical problems. To me, that’s social innovation. And so the list of 10 reads above all have that in common.

[…] 10 Great Social Innovation Reads – Looking for a couple clever ideas? Stop by Social Velocity‘s run-down of the 10 Great Reads from the previous months. What do you think about #7, “crowd-sourcing versus community-sourcing,” or #10, “Nonprofit Finance Fund … directing $10 million in ‘change capital’ to 10 performing arts organizations”? […]

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