Perhaps it had something to do with the SXSW Interactive conference last month, but March was all about using technology in interesting ways to further social change. From crowdfunding, to a new giving graph, to credit card donations to the homeless, to engaging people in the arts and beyond, people are experimenting with technology for social change in really exciting ways.
Below are my 10 favorite social innovation reads in March. But let me know in the comments what I missed. And if you want to see my expanded list, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or ScoopIt.
You can see the 10 Great Reads lists from past months here.
- Crowdfunding is quickly becoming the hot new thing in the social change world. It remains to be seen if it is a game changer, but in the meantime take a look at some examples of how its being used here, here, and here. And while we’re talking about innovative use of technology to fundraise, Lucy Bernholz dissects some new efforts to donate to the homeless via a credit card.
- Writing on the ArtsFwd blog, Anna Prushinskaya describes how some innovative arts organizations have used social media to effectively engage audiences in new ways.
- I’m really excited about a new technology the Case Foundation is developing that will map your online search preferences to giving suggestions just like Google, Facebook and others currently use your search preferences to suggest products and services. (I’ll be interviewing the mastermind behind this, Will Grana, on the blog this summer).
- I love to see nonprofits using new media (like video and infographics) to tell their story. Beth Kanter offers some easy tips for creating infographics. And speaking of cool infographics, check out this one on why slacktivists are more active than you think.
- It seems “scale,” the social innovation buzzword of a few years back, is being redefined. Kathleen Enright, CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, describes a new report that expands the idea of scale and offers ways grantmakers can support it. And Ben Mangan, CEO of nonprofit EARN, spurs nonprofits and funders to move past “stifling incrementalism” and start working towards real scale.
- Dan Pallotta ruffled some feathers, as is his way, with his TED Talk this month The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong, and there were several responses. But I thought the most thought-provoking was from a group of professors from Boston who suggest that Pallotta’s argument that nonprofit salaries are too low only reinforces the wealth inequality of the American economy.
- And on a related note, Dione Alexander, writing on the Mission and Money blog, explains increasing wealth inequality as a kind of bullying, noting “The social contract through which we assume shared responsibility for the community is broken.”
- And since we are on the topic, this video about wealth inequality in America blew my mind. If you want a quick and dirty view of where America’s money goes, take a look.
- As part of the ten year anniversary of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Matthew Forti looks back at the past ten years of measuring nonprofit outcomes, the good, bad and the ugly.
- Writing in the Duke Chronicle, Trinity senior Elena Botella argues that deciding when a public service should be privatized should be based on evidence, as she says “Humans respond to a profit motive, but we also respond to altruism, community values, prestige and pride in our work.”
Photo Credit: mendhak
I get it. The words “strategic plan” have been so abused in the nonprofit sector that they elicit a whole spectrum of negative responses from the bored eye roll to the destructive desire to forgo strategy altogether. But I am a firm believer that charting a future direction for your nonprofit, whatever you want to call it, is absolutely fundamental to success.
A great strategy allows your nonprofit to:
- Connect mission and money
- Marshal ever-limited resources to their highest and best use
- Make board and staff more productive
- Articulate the value you provide your community
- Attract additional funding
- And, ultimately, create more social change
If you can’t, as an organization, describe your strategy for the future, how will you build the momentum and resources needed to get there?
This month’s Social Velocity webinar The Value of a Great Nonprofit Strategy will help you understand:
- Why strategy is so critical to building momentum and resources for your work
- What a great strategic planning process looks like
- How strategy can help you invest funders, engage your board, and make your staff more productive
- How to make your board more strategic
- The steps to get there
The Value of a Great Nonprofit Strategy
A Social Velocity Webinar
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
And remember, even if you can’t make this date or time you can still register for the webinar and get access to the recording, slides and ability to ask follow up questions. I hope you’ll join us!
Photo Credit: jonrawlinson.com
Here’s something a little different for your Friday. Kid President — the super cute and insightful Robbie Novak, a 9-year-old star of his own YouTube show — has become a phenomenon. President Obama has even taken notice. As I’m often reminded as a mother of young boys, it is an undeniable fact that those little voices can hold such profound insight.
So here’s a pep talk about changing the world from Kid President. I hope it inspires you on this Friday. Says Kid President, “You were made to be awesome. Let’s get out there!”
Today we celebrate President’s Day and one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. We were reminded of Lincoln’s incredible leadership, wisdom and courage to make real change this past Fall when the movie Lincoln came out. The movie chronicles a very specific period in history when Lincoln led an unpopular effort to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution outlawing slavery. His decision to force the end of slavery as the Civil War was drawing to a close was not a political one, in fact it was politically very unwise. Yet he believed deeply that it was the right action at the right time for our country.
In this clip from the movie he talks about Euclid’s ideas about geometric equality as a metaphor for human equality and the need for the end of slavery.
As a true leader, Lincoln did what was right, not what was easy. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. It demonstrates what true social change leadership looks like. Lincoln had a passionate vision for change and had the courage, strength and tenacity to bring it to fruition. He is a model for us all.
As I’ve said many times before, it’s no longer enough for nonprofits to do “good work.” Funders, policy makers, board members are increasingly demanding that nonprofits explain what change they exist to create. With increasing competition for social change dollars it is absolutely crucial that nonprofit organizations develop their own theory of change. This Social Velocity webinar “The Power of a Theory of Change” can help you do just that.
A theory of change is basically an argument for why a nonprofit exists. It describes how an organization uses community resources (money, volunteers, clients) to perform a set of activities which result in changes to the clients’ lives (outcomes) and changes to broader communities, institutions, or systems (impact).
Essentially a theory of change describes how a nonprofit creates social change.
It used to be enough for a nonprofit to talk about what it produced (or outputs), such as meals served in a soup kitchen, hours spent reading to a child, beds provided in a homeless shelter, but that just doesn’t cut it anymore. In a world where there are fewer and fewer dollars and more and more nonprofits fighting for those dollars, people are increasingly asking the question “To What End?” So what if you created outputs, did anything really change because of your work? Did the lives of those in your program change and did the community change?
That’s where a theory of change comes in. If you can articulate what change you hope your organization is creating, then with that fundamental building block in place you can:
- Chart a strategic direction
- Prove your results
- Secure more support for your organization
And ultimately achieve the holy grail of the nonprofit sector: sustainable community change.
The “Power of a Theory of Change” webinar will help you:
- Understand what a theory of change is and how it can help your nonprofit
- Develop your nonprofit’s own theory of change
- Connect your mission to your new theory of change
- Learn how to use your theory of change to chart a strategic direction
- Use your theory of change to attract more funding
- Help your board understand its power
And remember, all Social Velocity webinars are available as recorded downloads, so even if you can’t make this date and time you can still register for the webinar and get access to all of the content.
Photo Credit: frank.itlab.us
January was about looking ahead to 2013 and being prepared for the many changes to come. It was also about understanding and embracing new generations, thinking about risk differently, re-evaluating growth, and analyzing the unique and critical role of foundations.
Below are my top 10 picks for what was worth reading in January in social innovation. But please add to the list in the comments. And if you want to see more, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or ScoopIt.
You can see the 10 Great Reads lists from past months here.
- The predictions about what 2013 will mean for social innovation continue this month. As part of their whole Outlook 2013 series, the Chronicle of Philanthropy provides 5 Ways Nonprofit Work Will Change in 2013 and 5 Nonprofit Innovators to Watch. And the Philanthrocapitalism blog makes 20 predictions for 2013 chief among them is the rise of the woman philanthrocapitalist. Writing in Forbes, Antoinne Machal-Cajigas tells us What’s Next in the World of Social Innovation?
- January saw the second inauguration of President Obama, and Mathew Forti and Colin Murphy argue that his re-election campaign offers nonprofits some ideas about how to measure performance.
- Phil Buchanan, head of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, likes to stir things up, and I love him for it. He argues that nonprofit dependency on philanthropic dollars is NOT a bad thing. And because there is no rest for the weary, later in the month he argues against “the stampede to embrace the idea that for-profits — or for-profit models — can more easily combat our toughest social problems.”
- Writing on the HBR blog, Kimberly Dasher Tripp reminds us that scaling social impact is not about growing organizations, it’s about growing solutions.
- And speaking of impact, if you haven’t started figuring out what results your nonprofit is achieving, you may want to start since it looks like your youngest donors are demanding it.
- Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center, wrote a moving post about the critical role foundations play in our society, “Free from the bottom-line pressure of markets, the partisanship of electoral politics, and the demands of fundraising — [foundations] can use their independence to do remarkable things, whether it’s taking on issues that no one wants to touch, sticking with an issue for decades if required, or keeping the rest of us from forgetting the millions of people who, through no fault of their own, continue to be harmed and/or excluded by war, economic injustice, disease, and discrimination.”
- Beth Kanter writes a great post about overcoming the risk-aversion of the nonprofit sector by taking “little bets.”
- As you plan your conference schedule for the year ahead, check out the William James Foundation’s comprehensive list of social entrepreneurship conferences.
- Social change can be exhausting, demoralizing work. Here’s how a New York City teacher, with arguably one of the hardest jobs in education, stays committed to social change.
- The millennial generation is no longer willing to separate work and life, so says Ryan Steinbach on the UnSectored blog. In fact, “millennials see their careers as not a part of their lives, but rather what they do with their lives – and life is so much more than making ends meet. It’s social, emotional, physical, and spiritual. It’s about pursuing your passions, building relationships, and giving back.”
Photo Credit: thatdisneylover
Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who arguably could be called one of the first social entrepreneurs. The thing about social change is that it can be incredibly difficult, heart-breaking and time-consuming. It takes a tremendous tenacity to persevere until change comes.
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King, which I think of often, counsels us to be patient and believe in change. Speaking on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in March of 1965, King said:
I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?”….
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.
How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow….
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
You can watch a clip of that speech above, or click here to watch it if you are reading this in an email.
And I’m also reminded of this beautiful blog post that Kjerstin Erickson, a social entrepreneur working with African refugees, wrote three years ago. As does any social entrepreneur, she had grown tired of the slow pace of change. But with King’s words she found solace and the will to move forward:
And yet, we’ve all found ourselves in moments like these. It’s part of the process of reconciling the world we want with the world we live in. To make it through such times, we often have no option but to turn to the words of those wiser than we. On this national holiday, it’s a fitting tribute to Martin Luther King’s legacy that to recognize the role that his words continue to play in the internal struggles of so many of us seekers. For me personally, King’s words on the human struggle for a loving world are the first I turn to when in need of clarity or solace. To me his brilliance lies in the way that he never told anyone anything new, but rather elucidated the truths they always already knew. If you find yourself struggling with any of the questions I asked above, perhaps you will, like me, find your answer within yourself through the words of these timeless passages.
All of us working toward social change must remember these words. There are times when the end goal seems so far away, when the hurdles appear completely insurmountable. It is at those very times that you must pick yourself up, take a deep breath, and move another step forward.
Every once in awhile the hurdles seem insurmountable, and we reach a point where the forces of ill seem to overpower the forces for good. Friday was perhaps one of those moments. As a mother of elementary school children, Friday’s events cut me to the core.
But I think it is worth remembering that it is these very moments that can be the impetus for social change. A singular event can galvanize people to work towards something better. Indeed countless social movements have materialized because of some injustice, some unspeakable act, some horrifying event. It remains to be seen if this will be a watershed moment for gun control activists or mental health advocates, whether new legislation will be passed or new organizations and movements born. Just as Mr. Rogers told us to “look for the helpers” when something bad happens, I think it is wise to look for the change. What will come out of this horrific event? How will our society be changed because of what happened?
And while we wait, I find comfort in Mr. Roger’s Messsage of Hope, recorded shortly after 9/11.
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