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20 posts from July 2010

Readings and Other Stuff (July 9, 2010)

July 09, 2010

A few items for your weekend reading pleasure:

What's on your Kindle/iPad?

Social Impact Exchange Announces Biz Plan Competition Winners

Socinnovation_wordcloud Back in October, I blogged about the launch of the Social Impact Exchange -- a community of funders, practitioners, researchers, wealth managers, and others interested in developing practicies for studying, funding and implementing large-scale expansions of top-performing nonprofits.

A few weeks ago, at its Inaugural Conference on Scaling, SIE announced the winners of its 2009-10 Business Plan Competition. The two awardees, the Parent-Child Home Program and Rubicon National Social Innovations, entered the competition last fall along with nearly two hundred other nonprofits and went through several rounds of evaluation prior to being selected from among eight finalists.

The Parent-Child Home Program "utilizes intensive home visiting to engage families isolated by poverty, limited literacy, lack of transportation, and language and cultrural barriers in an evidence-based scool readiness, early literacy, and parenting education program." Rubicon (not to be confused with Rubicon Programs, a fine human services agency in the Bay Area) is best known for its Emerge Workplace Loan and Financial Stability Program, which works to replace predatory payday lending with an online lending and financial education platform. The two organizations will receive up to $125,000 each in cash and consulting services from Public/Private Ventures, and the Whelan Group.

The competition, which was modeled after a series of nonprofit business plan competitions sponsored by the Yale School of Management and the Goldman Sachs Foundation earlier in the decade (SIE vice president and director Cynthia Massarsky was a driving force behind the Yale-Goldman Sachs effort), is a fine first step for the Social Impact Exchange as it works to share knowledge, facilitate increased financing, and develop infrastructure that helps others scale successful social innovations. 

I'll be curious, however, to see what kind of followup and lesson-sharing Cynthia and her colleagues have up their sleeves. And I'm especially curious about the kinds of questions they'll be asking to determine whether business plan competitions for nonprofits are themselves an example of successful -- and scalable -- social innovation.

In the meantime, congrats to the winners and the other six finalists (worthy organizations all).

-- Mitch Nauffts

Readings and Other Stuff (July 7, 2010)

July 07, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention today:

What's on your radar?

This Week in PubHub: International Affairs/Development: Economic Development

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about health care and language services.)

At a time when good news is scarce, one recent report highlights some welcome findings: We seem to be making progress toward achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. With an eye to exploring strategies aimed at further reducing global poverty, this week in PubHub we are featuring reports in the international affairs/development category, with a focus on economic development in conflict areas and developing countries.

Millennium Development Goals Report Card: Learning From Progress (Overseas Development Institute, UN Millennium Campaign) focuses on three of the eight MDGs: Goal 1 - ending hunger and extreme poverty; Goal 4 - reducing child mortality; and Goal 5 - improving maternal health. According to the report, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1990 to 1.4 billion in 2005, while overall child mortality dropped from 101 to 69 per 1,000 live births and access to maternal health services increased in 80 percent of countries. To be sure, progress is uneven, and hundreds of millions of people still live on less than $1 a day, but even a little good news is better than none at all.

Franchising in Frontier Markets: What's Working, What's Not, and Why, a December 2009 report from Dalberg Global Development Advisers (with funding from the John Templeton Foundation), examines the potential of franchising as a model for sustainable economic development in Africa and South Asia, the necessary conditions for franchising success, and its synergies with microfinance. While noting the challenges of socially motivated attempts at franchising in the healthcare sector (lack of self-sustaining business models, over-reliance on grants), the report showcases successful micro-franchise models and offers advice to donors and investors.

The World Resources Institute's September 2009 report On the Frontiers of Finance: Scaling Up Investment in Sustainable Small and Medium Enterprises in Developing Countries focuses on SMEs that produce environmentally responsible products and/or serve low-income communities with the goal of generating social, environmental, and financial gains. Based on interviews with leading sustainable SME investment fund managers, the authors recommend improving capital allocation through better investor/funder education and implementing high standards of transparency; promoting long-term approaches and financial innovation; and capturing the "triple bottom line" through the use of metrics that communicate impact effectively.

Poverty is exacerbated in conflict areas, where economic, political, and social tensions often reinforce one another in a vicious cycle. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report Summit on Entrepreneurship and Expeditionary Economics: Toward a New Approach to Economic Growth Following Conflict or Disaster highlights discussions from a May 2010 conference on post-conflict economic development efforts -- past, present, and future. According to the report, the intersecting roles of the military, the international business community, local human capital, and cultural dynamics are central to the debate.

What approaches to international economic development would you like to see explored? What other strategies for fighting hunger and poverty might be pursued? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts. And be sure to visit PubHub to check out the almost 350 reports on various aspects of international affairs/development.

-- Kyoko Uchida

A 'Flip' Chat With…Nancy Lublin of Do Something

July 06, 2010

(This is the second installment in our "Flip" chat series. You can find others here, including the first with Ami Dar of Idealist.org.)

On a beautiful, cloud-less day in New York City, I dropped by the Do Something office for a chat with CEO Nancy Lublin, founder of Dress for Success and author of the new book Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business. Founded by actor Andrew Shue in 1993, Do Something is a nonprofit organization that helps young people take action to improve their neighborhoods and communities. (You can read a profile of the organization here.)

During our chat, Lublin explained how not-for-profit "rock stars" have made an impact on a shoestring and offered lessons for corporate leaders who want to succeed in the new economy. She also shared her thoughts on the most surprising and "sticky" lessons in the book and offered advice to nonprofits about doing more with less -- or nothing.

Although it's a business book, Zilch is quite sassy. In fact, Lublin suggested readers read it "while listening to [Lady] Gaga in the background."

If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.

(Total running time: 6 minutes, 8 seconds)

For more on Lublin and Do Something, check out this Q&A.

-- Regina Mahone

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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