The Mighty Five: May.


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

Real experts are those who spend many years refining their knowledge and skill set in a particular area, then becoming masters of pattern recognition. IMAGE CREDIT: NYT / Carl Richards

Real experts are those who spend many years refining their knowledge and skill set in a particular area, then becoming masters of pattern recognition. IMAGE CREDIT: NYT / Carl Richards


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.


Death by data gender gap.

Vox | 8min

In the international development sector, major players like the Gates Foundation are sparking the conversation around the gender data gap. The dearth of specific information about women and girls poses a big problem when trying to design effective interventions, programs, or policies. But this macro issue is also incredibly micro, given that any female reading this is 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed during a heart attack or 17% more likely to die in a car crash. All because biased design pervades almost every element of our society – the reason we’re following organizations like Data2X as they build the case and mobilize action toward data equality.


The constant climb of expertise.

David C. Baker | 3min

As consultants, our entire business revolves around expertise. So we love digesting David C. Baker’s perspectives on the intentional cultivation and demonstration of said expertise. Indeed, we started our monthly Mighty Five roundup to keep ourselves accountable to developing and honing sector-relevant viewpoints. But as we aim to become masters in pattern recognition, we’re equally aware of its pitfalls: a false sense of security and limited worldview, especially within rapidly changing and evolving contexts. How can we combat this? Balancing deeper insights with broader life context. And as this HBR podcast outlines, always cultivating curiosity and critical thinking. Which is pertinent, we believe, to anyone in any sector.


The dark side of empathy.

KQED | 5min

It sounds paradoxical, but it’s true: empathy can chip away at civil society. Well, selective empathy can. Though it’s an essential touchstone in impact design, UX, marketing, and coding, studies show that universal empathy in college students has decreased 40% from the previous generation. Why? Scientists know empathy is triggered when we observe conflict between two groups. And our collective exposure to such conflict is ever-present. A quick scroll through Twitter is enough to see (and get drawn into!) strong demonstrations of polarization. But instead of avoiding empathy altogether, this news might serve as a resounding reminder to notice and actively orient our empathy to the other side – no matter the scenario.


Uprooting biases that drive philanthropy.

Forbes | 4min

Much ink has been spilled pointing out the ingrained power imbalance between philanthropic grantmakers and recipients. The Skoll World Forum even hosted a high-profile panel this year asking if philanthropy is too large and out of touch (spoiler alert: yes). Then recently, local entrepreneurs have given voice to the bias they experience within the very community that supposedly supports them. Like any systemic issue, it needs to be tackled on multiple dimensions. And it’s worth acknowledging that often, power concedes nothing without a demand. But we have to recognize it’s not enough to blame the large, faceless philanthropic establishment. It can and should be a personal call to action – to actively examine inherent biases, taking the steps we can to fight them.


Grannies know best.

The Guardian | 17min

Mental health and wellness interventions have historically occupied a low rung among global priorities. Misguided, considering mental issues are the single largest cause of disability worldwide. Thankfully, the past few years have seen an increased emphasis on combating anxiety and depression in impoverished countries. We enjoyed digging into one ingenious program in Zimbabwe. Older women in the community – the Grannies – are trained as community mental health workers, their clinic a simple “friendship bench.” The program has scaled throughout the country and beyond, and results of an RCT demonstrate its effectiveness.

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