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
In this month’s Social Velocity blog interview, we’re talking with David Neff, the creator and CEO of Lights. Camera. Help., a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. Neff is a Senior Consultant at Ant’s Eye View, and the co-founder of Internet start up HelpAttack! In 2009, he was named the American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Social Media Marketer of the year and one of the top 20 Social Media people in the state of Texas.
You can read past interviews in our Social Innovation Interview Series here.
Nell: Your book, The Future of Nonprofits, came out almost a year ago. Has anything changed in your view of what the future holds for the nonprofit sector?
David: Not yet. I think if anything in the past year we are seeing the rise of more and more tools (Gowalla dying off, Pinterest interest rising) but nonprofits are still too obsessed with the tools and not the higher level tactics behind them. Much less concentrating on the objectives and goals that go above the strategy. I hope that starts to change in 2012.
Nell: SXSW Interactive just wrapped up, what is on the cutting edge of technology innovation for social change? What got you really excited?
David: To be honest what got me excited was the privacy push we saw at SXSW. The rise of the informed public as to what brand and nonprofits are doing with their data, who they are sharing it with and how’s it being used. For too long I think the average nonprofit constituent has just written a check or donated online and then not worried about what’s happened with their data. Hopefully more and more nonprofits will re-think their privacy policies just as Google and Pinterest have done.
Nell: Innovation has become quite a buzz word in the nonprofit sector lately. What does it mean to you and what makes an “innovative” nonprofit?
David: Most nonprofits think of themselves as innovative when they simply add a new program or tool to their arsenal. This is the same as when GM calls a new car “innovative” because it has a new cup holder. KONY2012 was not innovative. It was a great cause-driven film that had a clear message to 1) help spread the word about Kony 2) to drive revenue and sales of the awareness items for invisible children. Innovative nonprofits are those out there trying new ideas that go beyond advertising or new programs. When I think innovative I think of the ground breaking campaigns that Stacey Monk at Epic Change is creating.
Nell: You spent 9 years at the American Cancer Society working on their online initiatives. Often it is difficult to bring innovation and new technology to the largest nonprofits. How were you able to innovate within such an organization? And what tips do you have for other “intrapreneurs” working to bring innovations to large nonprofits?
David: Luckily the American Cancer Society had an innovation system in place. One that helped foster new ideas, kill bad ones, and re-direct mediocre ones. We called this the Future and Innovation Center and I was lucky enough to twice receive a grant to create and build new ideas out of this center. Randal Moss (my co-author) was at the helm of leading this center within the American Cancer Society and did an amazing job at funneling new and good ideas into real world products. My tip for other “intrapreneurs” is create the system for them to work in. Take what you learn from our book and create your own internal innovation center at your brand or nonprofit. It’s not hard. We promise. And we are here to help you!
Nell: You’ve recently moved over to the for-profit world, helping companies to employ smart social media strategies. How did you decide to move to the private sector and how do you stay engaged with social change efforts?
David: Good question. I was recruited away from running my own consulting business by the amazing folks at Ant’s Eye View. And was offered a position and challenge that I couldn’t pass up being a sherpa for large companies in their own social and customer experience journeys. It was a no-brainer for me to come and work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known in this space. I still keep my head in the game of social change by being the CEO of Lights. Camera. Help., which is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to encouraging other nonprofit and cause-driven organizations to use film and video to tell their stories. We do this through our education and volunteer match programs, screenings and an annual film festival.
March, perhaps because it included SXSW Interactive, seemed to be largely about the use of new media to tell social change stories. There are an increasing number of ways and examples of how those working to solve social problems can tell their stories and get people motivated to act, from video, to Pinterest, to infographics, to data visualizations and much more.
Below are my ten picks of the best reads in social innovation in March, but as always, please add what I missed in the comments. And if you want to see other things that caught my eye, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
- By necessity, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs are turning to new mediums to tell their story. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has created a showcase of nonprofit infographics and visualizations, and the MediaShift blog profiles the various ways educators are using Pinterest for curation, and finally while at SXSW Interactive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy got 25 nonprofit leaders to film their elevator speeches–it’s fascinating to see the various ways people tell their story quickly.
- Speaking of video storytelling, there was much debate about the Kony 2012 video produced by nonprofit organization Invisible Children. But I think Paul Shoemaker from Seattle SVP had the most reasoned and interesting take on it all when he argued that nonprofits should not be evaluated based on “one-size fits all” metrics.
- A new campaign aimed at solving staggering youth unemployment combines technology, crowdfunding and social entrepreneurship. It will be interesting to watch.
- From the Atlantic, the results of a new study that demonstrates that because of technology and the social media environment how Millennials think and process is changing dramatically, so how we educate future generations must change dramatically as well.
- Amy Sample Ward gives a great recap of the social good focused sessions at SXSW Interactive.
- Writing in the New York Times, David Carr, examines “Hashtag Activism,” and whether someone clicking a “Like” button can really change the world.
- As the arts continue to struggle to find funding amid shrinking audiences and competing charitable priorities, crowd-funding may be the answer.
- Beth Kanter hosted a great group of guest bloggers from the GeoFunders National Conference on her blog in March, my favorite of which was Adene Sack’s post describing the 3 myths about scaling nonprofits.
- Writing on the Harvard Business Review blog Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja argue that Millennials take a do-it-yourself approach to solving large social problems, “they rely on a frugal and flexible mindset…and use the tools they have on hand to create a simple but effective solution to a highly complex problem. They are the contemporary MacGyvers.”
- Rich Tafel takes social entrepreneurs to task for “failing to recognize the complex nature of the problems we face [and] engaging in linear, simplistic solutions, when lasting change requires collaborative efforts.”
Photo Credit: kadorin