The Mighty Five: April.


A cross-sector curation of the month’s best social impact listens & reads

Overcrowding, severe understaffing, uncontrolled violence, and lack of protection plague Alabama’s prisons and violate its inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights. IMAGE CREDIT: / Julie Bennett

Overcrowding, severe understaffing, uncontrolled violence, and lack of protection plague Alabama’s prisons and violate its inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights. IMAGE CREDIT: / Julie Bennett


We read and listen to a lot around here. Articles, journals, case studies, podcasts – anything that provides nuggets of insight to fuel our mission and work. And we distill them down to our very top five in a regular monthly roundup. We hope you gain as much from reading it as we do from curating it.


Invest in capacity, unlock capital.

Financial Planning | 8min

Here’s an obvious fact: many social sector organizations are woefully underfunded. And another reality, in surprising contrast to the first: while more than 140 U.S. billionaires pledged to give half their wealth to philanthropy, they only donated 1.2% of their assets. Maybe it can be chalked up to good intentions gone astray. But put in market terms: when ample supply can’t reach unlimited demand, we have a fulfillment problem. Some think adopting a VC model can help close the gap, and Bridgespan has outlined four other pathways to increase giving. The last of these grabbed our attention: the sector has to pre-invest in an organization’s capacity to ready it for receiving and deploying funds.


Clear heads and full hearts.

Devex | 2min

Scale. It’s the buzzword du jour of the development world. And savvy changemakers are wise to apply rigorous frameworks and systems of measurement to help push their programs and unlock funding. But a head-only, blinders-on approach brings its own set of risks – including a focus on logframes and indicators that compromise connection to people and communities. No one can argue that big bets aimed at systems-level change aren’t important. But we also can’t let big bets compromise big heart, which has the power to fuel the day in, day out work of meeting immediate needs of those facing starvation, lack of clean water, or shelter.


A savory lesson on scaling impact.

First Round Review | 30min

Can a salad restaurant help navigate this tension between head and heart? First started in D.C. by recent university graduates, Sweetgreen has rocketed in popularity with 75 locations across the U.S. and $300+ million in funding. Its growth strategy is credited for a strong ability to scale intimacy, meaning they localize and tailor the restaurant experience (decor, recipes, sourcing) to each community they enter. Their four-part playbook feels pretty on-point for any social sector organization looking to grow while remaining connected: slow down to speed up, study the community, embrace modularity, and thrive on collaborations.


Cruel and unusual punishment. | 13min

If the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons then America has a weak claim to being the leader of the free world. The Department of Justice recently released a report on its findings of the horrific conditions pervasive in Alabama prisons. You need only to scan the report’s table of contents to see blatant violations of the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment. Indeed, it places the country in (bad) company with Israel, Venezuela, and Nigeria – and in direct violation of the U.N.’s Mandela Rules.


Out of the shadows.

The Economist Intelligence Unit | 7min

If what gets measured gets done, then this benchmarking index assessing the response of 40 countries to the threat of sexual violence against children is as necessary as it is overdue. Comprehensive data on child sexual assault doesn’t exist, but it’s estimated that 15 million adolescent girls have experienced forced sex in their lifetime. A staggering number – especially considering sexual abuse is notoriously underreported. But it’s encouraging to see social entrepreneurs like Thorn tackling the issue using technology, and getting recognized as a 2019 Skoll Award Winner.

Sign up to receive The Mighty Five in your inbox each month.