I’ve been heads down working on my next book about measurement and networked nonprofits with KD Paine and our editor, Bill Paarlberg, sprinting towards our deadline. Writing a book is always a learning experience and I can’t express my gratitude for having such a wonderful co-author and fantastic editor. The combination of learning so much about topic, plus the writing process has been incredible. When you have a co-author who is a measurement geek, you measure progress towards your deadline. We have a ten step drafting process, with stage 10 being perfection. We have a visual chart that shows us the stage of each draft – so when we reached 80% milestone, my reward was to attend the afternoon sessions of the Social Innovation Summit 2011.
Even with a big deadline looming, I’m so glad that I did because the discussions about being data-informed, fail fast and learn, and social impact measurement are ideas that we discuss in our book. As Shannon Schuyler, Head of Corporate Responsibility, PwC, who was the emcee for the event said, “Listen to these smart conversations and take notes.” And, I did, in the form of curating tweets on these sessions:
Driving Social Innovation
Reach and Impact: Where to Aim and Where to Start
Driving Community Solutions: Impact and Scale
One of my favorite sessions was facilitated by Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Affairs at Microsoft and it was called “Social Entreprenuer Showcase” featuring three founders of newly formed social ventures: Andrew Yang, Venture for America; Melissa Kushner, Nonprofit-Share; and Wilson To, Life Lens. Their projects were amazing, but reminded of quote from Dan’l Lewin, from Microsoft, “The day before something is truly a breakthrough – it is a crazy idea.” Listening to these social entrepreneurs reminded me that while we talk about failure, impact, learning, scaling, and measurement as important ingredients for success – personal passion is also important. And, I heard that in the voice of Charles Best, DonorsChoose.Org and John Wood, Room To Read.
And, I might also add, if you’re looking for a great holiday gift for someone who cares about kids, check out DonorsChoose.Org gift card or if you want to encourage your own kids to give back, check out Room To Read’s Zak the Yak Gives Back Book.
Jonathan Greenblatt, Director, Office of Social Innovation, White House, shared a lot of insights about his new job. He made several important points, which is at the heart of the book that KD Paine and I are working on:
“We manage what we measure, it is important to be accountable & transparent to your donors. Success is progress over time”
“There is a tension between innovation and impact. New and shiny may not be the most impactful says”
“Focusing on metrics is important, but we need to humanise those numbers”
Nancy Lublin, CEO, DoSomething.org moderated a session called “Reach and Impact: Where to Start and Where to Aim” with Paul Carttar, Director of the Social Innovation Fund, Corporation for National Service and Jaquelline Fuller, Director of Charitable Giving and Advocacy, Google. It resonated a lot with the themes in my book, and no surprise that DoSomething.org is one of the featured case studies.
Nancy Lublin is really funny! Her opening lines were hilarious. That some treat the funding of “innovative” proposals as porn, “I’ll know it when I see it.” And that the two criteria for innovative nonprofits is that have an engineer in the c-suite and use creative commons licenses.
- “Any organization that receives funding, should use impact assessment and have to make their reports public. No shame in failing.”
- “Funding data analysts is not overhead”
- “Don’t pimp your organization out to a funder. If they funding guidelines don’t fit, move to the next source.”
- “Non-profits must be focused + passionate about solving the problem vs. growing own organizations.”
- “Everyone wants to tell the winning story, very few want to share the failure”
- “Themes for non-profits use data in a smart way; share what u know openly; collaborate; and-it’s about solving the prob, not you!”
All in all, I left feeling inspired. For more on the topics of using data for learning and impact, see the newest issue of NTEN journal.