Best practices for social change and environmental action

Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Think like a designer

In Best practice, Communication, Design, Methods, Resources, Social enterprise, Tools on December 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Can the same kind of thinking that conjured up the first laptop computer, Oral-B toothbrushes, and Steelcase chairs work in the social sectors? Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review,  two experts suggest that it most certainly can.

Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt of the consulting firm Ideo posit that the way is through the emerging practice of design thinking.  They should know; Ideo is renowned for the application of such thinking to things as diverse as utility bicycles and pharmaceutical innovation processes.  Moreover, the consultancy now puts design thinking to work on some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems.

The three step process they describe is deceptively simple: inspiration, ideation, implementation.  The catch is that it all demands new approaches, real-world insight, and a much wider frame of reference. None of it is easy to come by.

Design Thinking for Social Innovation is available online for free at the publication web site.

It validates the common wisdom that real impact now demands systemic solutions rooted in the real world of daily lives.

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Leap of Reason

In Best practice, Books, Fund raising, Grant writing, Methods, Nonprofit management, Resources, Tools on June 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Business books come at us a dime-a-dozen across the channels of the information age. Many, if not most, offer advice and “insights” that hardly make them worth the trouble to read, never mind the cost of purchase.  Yet, every now and then, something towers above the noise with uncommon wisdom, clarity, and sheer relevance. The justifiably-renowned From Good to Great is such a read – made even more useful for nonprofit and NGO leaders with the followup publication of a monograph for the social services sector. My advice on those is simple: read them, and read them again — taking notes.

Now comes along Leap of Reason, a compendium of essays and tools focused on the theme of Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity.  The project is a collaboration between Venture Philanthropy Partners and McKinsey & Company, who have worked together across the global nonprofit sector for years.  They’ve recruited an array of authors to lend their practical experience and know-how along with frameworks for addressing some well-known challenges out here in the real world.

There’s no need to go into the details here, other than to note that the publishers and writers are quite serious about getting this excellent resource in the hands of as many nonprofits as possible. In addition to making the hardcopy available through Amazon for a small handling and shipping fee, and a Kindle version with just a handling charge, the entire book is online for free in an iBook version or PDF.

Judging by a quick read, I’d say this one is definitely worth the time…and some discussion.

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It’s about impact…not output!

In Best practice, Communication, Fund raising, Grant writing, Nonprofit funding, Nonprofit management, Online, Resources, Tools on June 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Talking about impact – real impact – seldom comes easy for an issues-oriented organization.

It’s one thing to describe programs, services, and activities that depict output.  It’s quite another to frame results in a way that shows how it all solves problems out there in the real world. Yet, that is what funders and supporters want to know. Increasingly, they need to know it before making a commitment.  The problem is that many nonprofits and NGOs don’t even understand it themselves.

This is a common enough situation that several organizations serving the nonprofit sector have done something about it.  The result of their collaboration recently went online with Charting Impact–  a new web-based tool that helps nonprofits, NGOs, and social enterprises think strategically about what they are trying to achieve and how they go about it.

Developed with input from nearly 200 organizations, Charting Impact applies a proven framework predicated on five deceptively simple questions.

  1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
  2. What are your strategies for making this happen?
  3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?
  4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?
  5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?
Some organizations might not be able to answer those questions quickly, but if they take the time – and effort – to work through the framework they will be rewarded with a crisp, detailed report that funders will appreciate.   Well worth the trouble…and well done by the creators – BBB Wise Giving AllianceGuideStar USA and Independent Sector.
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For economic growth…add water

In Economic, Government, Growth and Development, Policy, Public investment, Resources, Sustainability, Water on May 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm

We’ve been hearing a lot about water recently, and for good reason.  It is perhaps the most critical factor in climate change as well as adaptation strategies.  As my former colleagues at SIWI often emphasize,  a changing climate manifests its most important environmental effects through water. They come in floods, droughts, storms and the consequences for human health and quality of life.  Increasingly, the impacts are genuinely dramatic, as illustrated by this week’s dire situation along the Mississippi River.

The urgent climate story has recently overshadowed the strategic facets of the global water crisis, none more important than water’s fundamental role in stable, thriving economies. It’s not easy to understand – especially for anyone not directly involved in IWRM (Integrated Water Resource Management), strategic planning, or public finance.

This is where the folks at Global Water Partnership (GWP) have stepped up with a policy brief on the matter.  Full disclosure: I know the people at GWP because they share offices with SIWI in central Stockholm. They do good work.

With this clear, readable policy brief –  Investing in Water for Sustainable Growth – GWP has provided an excellent primer on the topic.

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Legally green

In Nonprofit law, Resources on April 27, 2011 at 7:30 pm

There was a time when setting up a “green” nonprofit was a relatively simple matter. Anyone with a decent idea … or even just a concept … could merely do a modest amount of paperwork and they were soon in business. That time is over, at least here in the US.

Now it takes a lot more than just good intentions to get a nonprofit going … and to keep it compliant with a churning sea of regulations.  You’ve got to know the law, seldom an easy thing to do.  Even veteran social entrepreneurs can get fouled up there.

Professional legal help usually means more than a quick hit to the petty cash account. Yet, most major law firms require their attorneys to do a certain amount of “pro-bono” service in the public interest, and they especially like to work in the fields of climate change, the environment, sustainability, and alternative energy.

That’s where Green Pro Bono comes in.

Green Pro Bono is the first free legal initiative in the United States dedicated to helping non-profit organizations and social entrepreneurs working on behalf of the planet.  The concept is simple: it matches organizations with attorneys who are willing to provide services without charge.  Here’s how it works.

Green Pro Bono is currently an all-volunteer undertaking. (Full disclosure: I am one of those volunteers.)  Even so, its roster of clients and participating law firms is growing rapidly during the ramp-up phase.  The organization is now working to scale up with modest funding and staff that will enable it to meet burgeoning demand across the US.

Check out the work done so far.

If your nonprofit endeavors are green, lean … and in need of legal help … well, now you know where to go.

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