In our ongoing blog series, 10 Great Social Innovation Reads, below are my picks for what really stood out in the world of social innovation in March. These are the discussions, posts, articles, etc. that I think added real value to the emerging world of social innovation over the past month. You can read January’s and February’s picks as well.
As always, please add your picks to the list in the comments.
- 2011 State of the Nonprofit Sector Surey Results: The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s third annual State of the Nonprofit Sector survey results are out. It’s very interesting to see how the sector is faring 2+ years into the recession.
- How Non-Profits Are Utilizing Facebook: From the Social Earth blog comes a great infographic that demonstrates how nonprofits are using Facebook.
- An In-depth Interview with Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation: Sally takes a look back at the last 10 years of social entrepreneurship in this fascinating interview.
- 4 Core Approaches to Philanthropy: Sean Stannard-Stockton from the Tactical Philanthropy blog wrote a pivotal blog series in March on 4 core approaches to philanthropy.
- When you want to quit because it’s just not worth it: True social innovation requires an undying determination to keep going, keep building, keep creating in the face of seemingly insurmountable hurdles, so from the A Smart Bear blog comes a reminder to never give up.
- Google Launches ‘Google for Non-Profits’: Google launches Google for Nonprofits this month. Is this a revolution or an innovation? I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s the start of bigger plans down the road.
- Social Impact Bonds Will Fail Without Solving the Evaluation Problem First: From Full Contact Philanthropy comes a caution about getting too excited about the next shiny thing in social impact finance, the social impact bond, which allows people to invest in nonprofits and receive a financial return if outcomes are met.
- 2011 Bright Ideas: The Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center announced its annual list of the 36 brightest ideas and programs in government. If you think government can’t be innovative or create real change, take a look.
- How Many Points Does it Take?: From the Nonprofit Finance Fund blog comes Craig Reigel’s argument that “nonprofits need a whole range of capital solutions.” I completely agree!
- 22 Nonprofit Mobile Websites: Are nonprofit orgs jumping into the world of mobile to build support? Slowly but surely. Here’s a list of the best nonprofit mobile sites from Nonprofit Tech 2.0.
Photo Credit: aithom2
Day 2 of SoCap was by far my favorite. It started with an interesting keynote from Julie Sunderland of the Gates Foundation. She offered a perhaps more realistic, bordering on the pessimistic, view of the social capital market space. She said that Gates struggles to find entities that can absorb the size investments they want to make. They get excited about the idea of bringing together foundation, government and private dollars in stacked deals, but that the work is complicated and hard and they have yet to craft one of these deals simply because it is extremely difficult to determine the terms. All of this underlines what I’ve said in a previous post: in the nonprofit, philanthropic and government worlds there is still much work to be done to unlock capital.
The first session of the day for me was “Lessons of Behavioral Finance: Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Impact Investing” with Hope Neighbor and her ground-breaking research, Money for Good, released earlier this year calculating a $120 billion pool of potential impact investing money that is sitting on the sidelines. Hope said that despite our desires to the contrary, people still very much think of their charitable giving as separate from their impact investing, “the reality is that people compartmentalize their money.” And only 3% of the population uses data to compare the organizations they give to.
My favorite session of the day, by far, was “Deep Dive Into the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative.” This session was exactly what I was hoping to see more of at SoCap this year. A group of leaders in Cleveland realized that the heart of their city was quickly deteriorating and no one was doing anything about it. They formed a coalition of the anchor institutions in Cleveland (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, etc), foundations, city leaders and others to create the Evergreen Cooperatives that brings career-track jobs and green, employee-owned businesses to the inner city, transforming a city that has lost 50% of its population in the last 50 years. Beyond the fascinating coalition, business model and results this project is achieving, lies its impressive financing. A combination of bonds, foundation grants, loans, HUD money and others launched this project and financed the 3 businesses they currently operate (a green laundry, an organic greenhouse, and a solar power company). According to Evergreen leaders, “Cleveland wants to be where the world is going, not where the world is.”
To scale this project to create 5,000 jobs (the area needs 46,000 jobs), which will be the impetus to truly transform the inner city economy, they are creating a CDFI and looking to use PRIs and MRIs. What excites me so much about this project is not the spirit of collaboration and tremendous results, but how they are bringing public, private and philanthropic money together in a truly innovative convergence. THIS is the kind of social capital market I’m talking about. Impact investing is great, but it is only ONE piece of the puzzle. I would love to see more examples like Evergreen at SoCap.
The last breakout session I attended for the day was “Nonprofit Analysis: Beyond Metrics,” which gave a great overview of the growing nonprofit evaluators market through the lens of rating one nonprofit, DC Central Kitchen. It was interesting to see how Charity Navigator, the most well-known nonprofit evaluator, has evolved from a system driven purely by IRS 990 form overhead ratios to a three-pronged review including transparency and impact evaluations.
The end of the session gave me serious pause, however, when a member of the audience asked whether any of the evaluators might use the GIIRS system coming out of the impact investing world to rate nonprofit impact. Ken Berger admitted he wasn’t familiar with GIIRS and Tim Ogden of GiveWell said he was skeptical of social return on investment (SROI) calculations in general. Again, my point that the philanthropic and impact investing worlds aren’t communicating and collaborating becomes apparent. Wouldn’t that be amazing if impact in both the philanthropic and impact investing worlds could be measured in a comparable way? That would be truly innovative!
So, although Day 2 of SoCap provided much more conversation and examples of how the philanthropic and government capital markets are evolving, there is still much work to be done to bring both capital fully into the social capital market. Perhaps at SoCap 2011?
Photo Credit: Markets for Good
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