I'm constantly on the lookout for fresh insights on achieving impact at a transformative scale. Here are five interesting articles I came across this month:
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1. Beyond the Holy Grail: Private Innovation, Public Funding, and What Comes Next: An important article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Dan Cardinali, the new CEO of Independent Sector who until recently was president of Communities In Schools. Dan tackles the challenges of moving from innovation to widespread public implementation, where he sees a real risk of implementers skimping on the ingredients that are most integral to the effectiveness of a successful model. Sitting at the intersection of transformative scale and Bridgespan's work on overhead costs—see the nonprofit starvation cycle and pay-what-it-takes philanthropy—this piece has clear implications for any aspiring transformative scale leader.
2. Shared, Collaborative and On Demand: The New Digital Economy: The Pew Research Center's new report on the sharing economy and on-demand services highlights the remarkable reach of this new paradigm—72 percent of Americans have used an on-demand or shared online service. And, interestingly, the users with more exposure to these services expect them to be regulated differently. Potential transformative scale models might borrow from the sharing economy or might help to supplement where the sharing economy leaves people out. Experimentation with these models in the social sector has been modest, but the potential seems huge (see also the article from Harvard Business Review on platforms from this spring, for more hints about what might be possible). One barrier is the substantial upfront investment required to develop a platform, so perhaps we need some pictures painted of the possible applications of platforms in the social sector to inspire bold investments.
3. Social Movements Matter: The Untold Story of the Democratic Primaries: Gara LaMarche of the Democracy Alliance writes in the Huffington Post about how change happens. Social movements have clear implications for elections, and they also are a key feature of many transformative scale efforts. A scalable operating model, effective leadership, and consistent funding are all important, but ambitious organizations must also understand the power of social movements to magnify or stymie their efforts.
4. Why Do So Many Studies Fail to Replicate?: Jay Van Bavel of New York University writes for the New York Times that replicating academic studies is challenging because context matters. The same is true for scaling effective social impact models. This piece, which draws from a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reminds us that understanding context, continuously measuring outcomes, and making informed adjustments will all help to maintain impact at larger and larger scale. An analogous point is made in a blog we wrote a few months ago that compares "aligned-action networks" and pure replication.
5. Social impact drives Omidyar Network's civic tech investments: Alex Howard interviews Stacy Donohue, who leads Omidyar's Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative in the United States, in this piece on Tech Republic. Civic tech has incredible potential as a leverage point for scaling impact. Stacy surfaces some nuanced insights about the opportunities and risks of civic tech, the role of philanthropy, and why so much civic tech is focused on cities. She also highlights some exciting examples of civic tech that you may not have heard of.
I can also recommend a video view this month—Andrew Youn's TED Talk, 3 Reasons Why We Can Win the Fight Against Poverty. Andrew founded One Acre Fund, which is part of the Transformative Impact Collaborative. His recent speech paints a vivid picture of the scale of extreme poverty and hunger, and highlights a model for bringing advances in agricultural productivity to the farmers who make up the majority of the world's poor. It's a compelling watch.