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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: November 2013

By Nell Edgington



read_book_by_kakao_bean-d4oaprwThere was a lot of talk in November about how we actually make the shift toward measuring outcomes in the nonprofit world. And the resounding theory was that we should start with funders and funding for evaluation. Let’s hope philanthropists are listening!

And speaking of funding, there were some fascinating articles about the financing of public parks and how philanthropic, corporate and public money all affect a very public good.

At the end of the day it’s always about money isn’t it?

Below are my picks of the 10 best reads in the world of social innovation in November. But as usual, please add what I missed in the comments.

And if you want to see an expanded list of interesting reads, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+. You can also find past months’ 10 Great Reads lists here.

  1. A fascinating article in The New Yorker unpacks some recent developments with the funding of New York City parks, the delicate balance between private philanthropy and public goods, and how both contribute to or detract from equality.  Exploring a similarly murky delineation between public goods and corporate profit, this article from The Atlantic Cities describes a new trend in corporately-financed public parks.

  2. Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Christina Triantaphyllis and Matthew Forti argue that NGOs need to move from overhead measures to cost-per-impact measures. And funders need to help that shift happen.

  3. Phil Buchanan from the Center for Effective Philanthropy would agree, it seems. As he puts it, “Until foundations really step up and support nonprofits’ data collection, assessment, and improvement, we will not get the best out of our collective efforts.” Tell ‘em, Phil!

  4. But maybe the solution is more systematic. Ever the visionary, David Henderson offers an idea to make the shift toward impact by tying charitable deductions to outcomes. Crazy or brilliant?

  5. The nonprofit sector really needs to get over its inferiority complex, and to help, the University of San Francisco’s MPA program developed this great infographic on The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector.

  6. From the HubSpot blog comes some tips for how nonprofits can use social media to really engage people, and The Guardian in the UK offers the 5 characteristics of the top 30 nonprofit CEOs on social media.

  7. On the How Matters blog Jennifer Lentfer argues that the “social good industry” wrongly assumes “that in the developing world, nothing exists, i.e. that there’s a blank slate upon which our interventions can be built.”

  8. There are some great reports and data analysis tools recently released. For a start, you can dig into the foundation landscape, analyze nonprofit financial performance, or understand how content marketing and technology are being used for social good.

  9. Speaking of technology for social good, crowdfunding is becoming a bigger funding source for social causes, raising $2.7 billion in 2012. Lucy Bernholz rounds up the research on this emerging and not fully understood funding vehicle.

  10. And finally, a really cool example of truly public art has emerged in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Photo Credit: kakao-bean

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (www.socialvelocity.net), 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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