The Social Impact Exchange Blog

  • Vanessa Wilkins, Partners in Scale
    Posted: June 20, 2013

    How do we improve educational outcomes for all kids? Increase the time they spend in school and improve that time – by making it more hands-on (and fun!) for kids, giving teachers more time to collaborate and address the individual needs of each child, and bringing programs from community partners like Boys & Girls Clubs or the YMCA into our schools. At least that’s what the “TIME Collaborative” is trying to do in five states where they are expanding learning time (ELT).

    Wednesday’s breakout panel discussion on “Multi-Sector Collaboration in Education” at the Social Impact Exchange Conference shared lessons and challenges from the National Center on Time and Learning’s multi-state partnership with the Ford Foundation and thirty school districts.

  • Christopher A. Langston, PhD, John A. Hartford Foundation
    Posted: June 20, 2013

    The last several days I've been attending my fourth Social Impact Exchange Conference. While these conferences are primarily about how the social sector can come together to achieve breakthrough success at a scale commensurate to the problems we face -- and have featured stellar organizations such as AARP Experience Corps, The Nurse-Family Partnership, and this year Project ECHO -- I just can't get my mind off the issue of failure.

    In a session Wednesday morning entitled "When is Philanthropy (Ir) Relevant?" Jim Canales, CEO of the California-based James Irvine Foundation, called on philanthropy to overcome what he argues is its history of "underperformance."  Normally, I just shrug off such critiques of philanthropy as either willful ignorance of our real (if fraught) impact from outsiders or, when from insiders, as a trendy posture of self-loathing affected by many philanthropic leaders (who sometimes seem embarrassed by their positions).  However, having listened to Mr. Canales on many occasions and learned a great deal over the years from how the Irvine Foundation does its work,  I have great respect for his thinking.

  • Ashley May The Philanthropy Roundtable
    Posted: June 20, 2013

    Failure is a fact of life. But not in philanthropy, right? The James Irvine Foundation president Jim Canales began the second day of the Social Impact Exchange Conference challenging philanthropists, particularly foundation staffs, to embrace risk and acknowledge failure. From his perspective, philanthropy’s tendency to control, manage, and diminish risk leads to missed opportunities.

    As context, Canales cited a paper published by Irvine in 2007 highlighting a misguided investment and their lessons learned. A reporter from the Chronicle of Philanthropy contacted Canales in 2013 to speak about the story: the writer had not seen a likewise report on a Foundation’s failures in six years. Either philanthropy is hitting the mark every time with every grant, or it is quietly forgetting those initiatives that underperform.

  • Ashley May, The Philanthropy Roundtable
    Posted: June 19, 2013

    To open the annual Social Impact Exchange Conference on Tuesday in New York City, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson outlined the vision of the Foundation, its ambitions for Detroit, and the opportunities he sees for funders to act creatively in the face of large social problems. One unintended consequence: he suggested that foundations hire more MBAs. Why?

    Innovative financial instruments and public-private collaborations sound well and good. But they are tricky to understand and require a different skill set than traditional grantmaking. Sophisticated financial prowess doesn’t grow overnight, and philanthropy can learn from senior investment professionals, even perhaps hire them.

  • Vanessa Wilkins, Partners in Scale
    Posted: June 18, 2013

    The following blog post reflects on a breakout session that took place at the Social Impact Exchange's Symposium on Scaling Impact, June 17.

    How do you define sustainability? Reliable and repeatable revenue that covers the full cost of your enterprise and aligns with your mission – at least that’s how Kristin Giantris from the Nonprofit Finance Fund defined it at the “Financial Models: Achieving Sustainability at Scale” session at the Symposium on Scaling Social Impact Monday.

    Panelists Matt Aguiar from Reading Partners, a school tutoring program that’s grown from $2 million in revenue to $16 million since 2006, and David Carleton from Catalyst Kitchens, the business plan winner at last year’s conference, shared lessons from two very different financial models.

    At Partners in Scale, we work with clients looking to scale their impact. Even the most sustainable organizations struggle with how to fund the infrastructure they need to scale their model, and how to ensure sustainability for their programs at a much larger scale, often in different geographies.