Announcing the SOCAP24 Agenda — Going Deeper: Catalyzing Systems Change!

10 SSIR Articles Every SOCAP17 Attendee Should Read

SOCAP September 13, 2017

A SOCAP Guest Post by Eden Stiffman, Assistant Editor, SSIR
As we prepare to convene in San Francisco for SOCAP17 we asked several of our media partners to share a few of their most timely and important news stories with the SOCAP community. This week’s suggested reading comes from Stanford Social Innovation Review.
At Stanford Social Innovation Review, we want you to be in the know. Covering multi-sector solutions relevant to nonprofits, foundations, government, business leaders, impact investors, and social enterprises, SSIR makes cutting-edge research and new theories on social change accessible and relevant to leaders like you. 
Our editors have curated a list of our most popular and thought-provoking articles from 2017 to inspire new thinking ahead of the conference. Here are the 10 articles every SOCAP attendee should read:

1. Marginalized Returns

This article shines new light on a common debate within impact investing. Authors Mara Bolis, senior advisor in the Private Sector Department at Oxfam, and Chris West, cofounder of Sumerian Foundation, argue that the prevailing view on impact investing—where social impact and financial returns are the norm, not the exception—is unrealistic.

2. Stop Raising Awareness Already

Too many organizations concentrate on raising awareness about an issue without knowing how to translate that awareness into action by getting people to change their behavior or act on their beliefs. University of Florida’s Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand argue that it’s time for activists and organizations to adopt a more strategic approach to public interest communications.

3. The New Science of Designing for Humans

The days of privileging creativity over science in design thinking are over, contends Piyush Tantia, co-executive director of the social enterprise ideas42. He outlines a methodology called behavioral design, which harnesses the rise of behavioral science and impact evaluation to create new way for engineering programs and human interactions based on what really works.

4. Systems Change in a Polarized Country

In this turbulent political moment under the Trump administration, US foundations are increasingly working to pursue change and achieve their goals through “systems change,” writes Mark Kramer, co-founder and managing director of FSG, and the author of SSIR’s most popular article of all time, Collective Impact. In a companion piece, Solving the World’s Biggest Problems: Better Philanthropy Through Systems Change, New Profit Chairman Jeffrey C. Walker examines how nonprofits are embracing these collaborative principles globally and presents five keys to success.

5. Creating Breakout Innovation

Joanna Levitt Cea and Jess Rimington, visiting scholars at the Stanford Global Projects Center, examine the growing trend of nonprofits, community groups, and philanthropists embracing co-creation to tackle problems while pointing out that few of these efforts are resulting in bold innovation and powerful solutions. Here, the authors present five collaborative practices that can help organizations step beyond business as usual and meet their criteria for “breakout innovation.”

6. The Curb-Cut Effect

Equity is not a zero sum game, writes Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink. Laws and programs designed to benefit vulnerable groups, such as the sidewalk curb-cut for people in wheelchairs, or programs that support poor people and people of color, often end up benefiting all of society.

7. Development Malpractice In Ghana

Kevin Starr, director of the Mulago Foundation, offers some straight talk on ill-conceived development projects, pushing back on the mantra that failure is good. He shares the story of one Ghanaian village’s water interventions as an unfortunate illustration of development pitfalls while presenting some of the basic principles that should guide such work.

8. Is Your Nonprofit Built for Sustained Innovation?

In a survey of nonprofit leaders conducted earlier this year, a majority said their organizations did not have the capacity to continuously innovate. The authors of this piece—Nidhi Sahni and Laura Lanzerotti, partners at the Bridgespan Group; Daniel Pike, a case team leader at Bridgespan; and Rockefeller Foundation Associate Director Amira Bliss—offer six starting points for nonprofits that want to build their capacity to sustain innovation.

9. It’s About Results at Scale, Not Collective Impact

Jeff Edmondson and Parvathi Santhosh-Kumar, directors at StriveTogether, share how their Cradle to Career Network, highlighted in Collective Impact, has shifted as it has scaled. The authors share their lessons learned as they’ve expanded their partnerships—all grounded in the common commitment for partners to use data to improve outcomes.

10. Time to Reboot Grantmaking

Social sector organizations need a “healthy diet” of funding to achieve maximum impact. But what exactly does that look like? Michael Etzel, a partner at Bridgespan, and Hilary Pennington, vice president for education, creativity, and free expression at the Ford Foundation, explain how to put this concept, as captured by their “Grantmaking Pyramid,” to use as a tool to reshape the funding conversation.
Like what you’ve read? SSIR is now offering a special discount for SOCAP community members. Click on this link for access to subscribe to SSIR at a $10 discount.

Join the SOCAP Newsletter!