The Mighty Five: May.
A cross-sector curation of the month’s best social impact listens & reads
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.
You’ve got to spend money to make change.
Stanford Social Innovation Review | 8min
We’re admittedly into HBO’s Silicon Valley. This season closes (spoiler alert!) on a shot of the cast standing in a vast empty office space funded by their Series B, waxing how they’re “... signing new developers every day... and the staff to support them... legal, accounting, HR...” Even writers for a fictional show understand that building a new internet requires more than just programmers to make the massive shift possible. Contrast this with the social sector, continually forced to justify spending on the structural systems that help drive impact. SSIR’s How Funders Can Support Nonprofits Now beats a strong drum for change: “[Funders must] once and for all fund the full cost of social change – the same way the private sector funds the full cost of doing business.”
NonprofitAF | 7min
Last month, we spent the week in Oxford at Skoll World Forum. As expected, we heard amazing keynotes, met brilliant changemakers, and left energized at the state of social entrepreneurship. Less expected: visible funder/grantee power dynamics – a reminder that even the social sector isn’t immune to being at least a partial reflection of the imbalanced world at large. We were handed a timely copy of the recently published Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships to digest on the long haul home. It’s lighthearted, practical, and sheds light on how we can all work together more equitably and effectively.
Parachuting docs: think before you jump.
NPR | 12min
Western summers signal a spike in mission trips to developing countries by schools, churches, and groups of individuals with specialized skill sets – often medical in nature. Don’t get us wrong, we recognize these trips are organized with the best of intentions and absolutely can create positive change. But it’s also important to consider their inherent complexities and repercussions. And critical to embark on them as a teacher, listener, and partner, rather than a parachuting commander.
Pop culture giving rise to social change.
Man Repeller | 8min
This essay gave us a lot to ponder about how gender, class, power, and race affect our participation in pop culture. The argument that it’s a vital and increasingly political ingredient in modern life sharpened with the release of Childish Gambino’s latest single and music video, This is America. It’s a dense and compelling commentary on, well, you name it: racial relations, gun control, ambivalence, modern American life. Musicians being the voice of social justice is nothing new, but when the Pulitzer Prize committee gives their annual award to the rap album DAMN by Kendrick Lamar, you can’t help but respect how traditionally disenfranchised voices find a way to shout their stories and experiences to ignite social change.
Employees the linchpin to successful corporate social responsibility.
Covestro | 5min
We think a lot about how we can shift corporate engagement in social change from a “vitamin” to a “painkiller.” Often, CSR is considered a nice-to-have element of a corporate strategy, funded by surplus or marketing budgets. But a new survey released last month examines trends around corporate social purpose from the perspective of CEOs and other C-suite executives at U.S.-based Fortune 1000 companies. And it paints a pretty compelling picture that the biggest driver of aligning profit and purpose are employees: finding, retaining, and engaging them. These survey results are backed by a study by economist John List. He’s quoted in a recent Freakonomics podcast saying: “promoting job openings using CSR increased the pool of applicants by roughly the same magnitude as a 27% wage increase.” Stunning.
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