The Social Impact Exchange Blog

  • Jonathan Lever, YMCA of the USA
    Posted: July 8, 2014

    Being a Scaling in Action presenter at the Social Impact Exchange Conference this year was rewarding for several reasons. First, it forced on me the discipline to tell the story of the decade-long evolution of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program in only 8 minutes! This wasn’t easy, but I appreciated the opportunity to refine my story. I’m now ready for “Shark Tank.” 

    Second, it gave me an opportunity to hear the inspiring story of three other successful program models that are worthy and ready to scale. Finally, it provided me a tremendous opportunity to share the merits of using a nonprofit network like the Y to nationally scale evidence-based programs that can alleviate pressing social issues like diabetes.   

  • Paul Carttar, The Bridgespan Group
    Posted: July 2, 2014

    This blog is reposted with permission from Bridgespan.org. The author, Paul Carttar, moderated a panel at this year's Social Impact Exchange conference. 

    Remarkably, the scaling of high-performing nonprofit organizations seems to have taken on a certain glamor. In our sector, we are typically eager to talk about such exciting topics as the design of promising interventions, the development of sophisticated organizational capacities, and, perhaps most alluring of all, the raising of growth capital from "investors" to fuel a program or organization's expansion or replication.

    Yet there is a sobering reality, an "unsexy" side to scaling that we too frequently avoid: with each upward ratchet in size, as a nonprofit expands facilities and hires more employees, it also increases the amount of money it must raise each year simply to maintain its operations. And if it can't do this, it can no longer build scale.

    Accordingly, I was pleased to see the recent Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact devote a significant chunk of time to the need to develop revenue models that enable growing nonprofits to thrive at each level of size attained. At the conference, I had the privilege of facilitating a plenary session on "Financial Sustainability at Scale" with several experts, who together provided foundational answers to four of the biggest questions on the subject:

  • Taylor Nelson, Solutions Journalism Network
    Posted: July 1, 2014

    Following her opening plenary speech at the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact on the morning of June 18, Heather McLeod Grant facilitated a two-hour interactive session called The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts. This session translated the conceptual ideas and learning from McLeod Grant’s speech and the subsequent panel into practical skill sets for network-mapping. The power of this technique extends beyond the practical understanding of how to map a network to a more intricate "knowledge-share process" among stakeholders. 

    Concepts, strategies, and ideas were put into practice by bringing different stakeholders to the table, thus creating a shared understanding of the problem at hand. Who are the stakeholders? Where are the barriers, opportunities, and missing links?  Network mapping provided us attendees the opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of systems behind social issues, such as education, health, and poverty alleviation.

  • By Stephen M. Pratt, Root Cause
    Posted: June 30, 2014

    At the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact, Nonprofit Finance Fund’s Antony Bugg-Levine opened the Thursday morning plenary on Financial Sustainability with the seemingly provocative question, “Is scaling impact conceivable?” I say “seemingly” because this year’s Social Impact Exchange conference offered the prima facie bias that scaling impact is conceivable. I remain a skeptic. Despite the launch of venture funds and public initiatives like the Social Innovation Fund, the social impact market remains disorganized, lacking defined investment pools at different stages of capitalization.

    Bugg-Levine offered up a formula for sustainability that, on its face, is entirely reasonable:

  • Nell Edgington, Social Velocity
    Posted: June 30, 2014

    This blog is reposted with permission from SocialVelocity.net. The author, Nell Edgington was a panelist at this year's Social Impact Exchange conference on scaling impact.

    Last week I attended the 5th annual Social Impact Exchange Conference in New York City. It was an interesting gathering of funders, change makers and intermediaries all grappling with how to reach and sustain scaled social solutions.

    “Scale” is such a challenging concept, and as I mentioned earlier, there are many entities struggling with exactly what scale means. According to Heather McLeod Grant (author of Forces for Good) whose keynote address kicked off the conference, “scale” is no longer about growing individual organizations or addressing individual issues, but rather about building movements and networks.

    The idea of a networked approach to social change is not a new one (see the great Stanford Social Innovation Review article from 2008 by Jane Wei-Skillern and Sonia Marciano on this approach), but Heather underlined the importance of a more integrated and aligned approach to creating social change. I would have liked to see this idea taken further, perhaps with some of the Transformative Scale discussion that is happening elsewhere, included in this discussion.