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Posts Tagged ‘Social Entrepreneurship’

Some of the best nonprofits have been prevented from growing as large or becoming as capable as they should be. What’s needed, according to Steven Goldberg, a consultant to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs, is a new nonprofit capital market that would take the form of a prediction, or information, market, akin to political polls. In a new book, Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn’t Advance Social Progress, Goldberg argues that such a market, while not a silver bullet, would increase social impact by fundamentally restructuring the sector, turning philanthropy from being loyalty-based – guided by fundraising and relationships – to merit-based – guided by performance. The idea of a nonprofit capital market has been mentioned by many thought leaders in the sector, Goldberg acknowledges. Nonetheless, he feels it has not received sufficient attention to date. Such a virtual stock market or “Impact Index” would allow philanthropists to know what various nonprofits accomplish, through evaluation and transparency, and not just what nonprofits are trying to accomplish, through anecdotal reporting. Such data will help make the most promising nonprofits, with the greatest likelihood of “transformative social impact,” stand out from the “weeds,” he writes.

Goldberg is not alone. Most established foundations are making the case for improved impact assessment — and for a decision-making process that is based on objective measures. And most organizations that study or support the sector — including GEO,  FSG, Independent Sector, the Foundation Center and UPenn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy — have made the case as well. But, we may be better at devising viable metrics than we are at changing behavior. And so Aspen’s program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation will convene thought leaders, practitioners and funders to consider how impact measures and other data can lead to field-wide learning — and changed behavior. Engaging in this workshop series will be members and partners of the Global Philanthropy Forum.

Before detailing his plan for this Impact Index, Goldberg writes about the problems of the current financial structure governing the sector. Traditional fundraising takes too much time and offers too little money, as foundations offer too many small, short-term grants with lots of strings attached. This practice reduces foundations’ risks of failure, he writes – but may also lead to less significant achievement. The sector’s most critical flaw, he says, is the fact that funding is tied to relationships, not performance.

The release of Goldberg’s book is timed to take place when the discussion of metrics and evaluation is taking place in all corners of the sector — but has not yet exhausted us. Superb work has been done and is being undertaken by many organizations on both the local and the national levels. For some, this is the time to take the discussion the last mile, from thought and successful experiment to field-wide change. But, in trying to do so, we might want to bear in mind the resilience of human nature. Both performance and relationships will surely play a role.

–Jane Wales

Vice President the Aspen Institute

President & CEO, The World Affairs Council/ The Global Philanthropy Forum

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Speaking to a capacity crowd at the Fairmont Hotel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof said, “We’ve all won the lottery of birth, and with that comes some real responsibility.” Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, are the authors of a new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide.  He joined the Council and the International Museum of Women last Wednesday for a discussion with Council CEO Jane Wales. The book project began as a way for the authors to look through the “prism of gender” at issues that are rarely reported by the international media. As they traveled and met with women in many countries, they learned that there are 60-100 million “missing girls” across the globe, girls who have died as a result of gender discrimination. Kristof spoke on numerous topics, including methods of ending coerced prostitution, the need for more foreign aid to be directed at local grassroots efforts, and the economic advantages associated with educating and employing women and girls. He noted the Western tendency to condemn low wage labor, but remarked that “the only thing worse than being exploited in a sweatshop is not being exploited in a sweatshop,” as girls whose jobs are taken away often end up in prostitution to replace their lost income. Kristof ended the program by discussing the decision to take his three teenage children to Southeast Asia and show them the brothels he had visited while writing the book. He said that he and his wife feel strongly that “the way you come to think about the world is when you…see these things and they make an impact on you” and that it is important, as parents, to try to teach their children “empathy, compassion, a notion of involvement, a sense that they can make a difference, [and] the joys of social entrepreneurship.”

To listen to the entire program with Nicholas Kristof, visit our audio archive here.

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The America Forward Blog highlights an interesting piece by Mitch Landrieu and Andrew Wolk on the need for social entrepreneurship in this country, especially in the face of these difficult economic times.  They argue that the Obama Administration’s ability  “to foster social innovation and entrepreneurship will be crucial to maximizing the use of our resources and determining, finally, what works and what does not.”  A topic very much on our minds as the planning for the new White House Office on Social Innovation begins…

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