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Not All Cross-Sector Initiatives Are The Same

February 23, 2013 Leave a comment

This summer, I had the good fortune of participating in the UnSectored Working Group focusing on refining UnSectored’s vision and mission. We reflected on the first six months of UnSectored and shared ideas about what it could look like in its second year.

After coffee shop, living room, and backyard conversations that brought us together to share our suggested edits to documents that Jeff was good enough to draft and redraft, we got to a clear articulation of what we do and our values. The task was not as simple as thinking about how to describe what we do. It became an ongoing discussion about what UnSectored should be.

For those of you new to this site, UnSectored is, “a community of people who believe that social change is the responsibility of all individuals, organizations and sectors. We work between and beyond sectors to collectively define progress and enact change.”

It’s understandable that this description might remind one of collective impact, defined by FSG as, “the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.” Both UnSectored and collective impact promote the importance of gathering people from different sectors and share an end goal of making change.

Despite this similarity, collective impact and UnSectored are not the same. Solely focusing on the cross-sectored nature of both ignores the important distinction that collective impact is an approach with a clearly defined goal, and UnSectored is a platform without an agenda.

This summer, the Working Group thought about whether or not to develop UnSectored into a community centered on a few issues that we believed were vitally important to improving the DC community. People from all sectors who shared our beliefs would join, and our group would see what we could do to help make change. While still different from collective impact in many ways, this route would have more closely resembled that approach.

Instead, we decided UnSectored could provide highest value as an on and offline platform for people with very different viewpoints to learn about one another’s perspectives (the trick, of course, is how to get people with very different viewpoints together). This might result in multiple actions that appear in direct contrast to one another, but a common end is not our goal.

When you read our final Working Group products  (what we do and our values), you will find a description of a process and an articulation of basic principles that guide how we interact with one another. Is UnSectored a cool platform for exploring ways to achieve social change beyond the scope of just one sector? Yes. Is it a collective impact approach? No.

Beyond collective impact and UnSectored, what cross-sector approaches and platforms for social change do you use in your community? And how do you foster a welcoming environment for people with conflicting perspectives?

This was originally posted on the blog UnSectored. You can read the original post here.

Caring about the Social Innovation Fund

I’ve come to realize over the past two years that not everyone is as fascinated with the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) as I am. And that’s fine. In fact, a lot of my attraction to the SIF relates to my professional situation at the time when it was created.

After becoming a StartingBloc Fellow in the summer of 2008, I heard talk of then-presidential-candidate Obama discussing plans to start an office for social entrepreneurship at the White House (how cool!). I followed these discussions from the campaign to the transition teams, culminating in the passage of the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act in spring 2009. Over this year, I did a lot of thinking about what type of graduate school program would best situate me for the type of career I wanted (and, more importantly, help me define that career interest).

I was fortunate to receive a super cool fellowship from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University to pursue an MPA (my introduction to government) while working part-time at a community foundation (my introduction to philanthropy). At the same time, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) launched the SIF, creating a new way for philanthropy and government to interact, with an eye towards evaluation and scaling effective organizations. Through my work at the foundation, I got to listen in on CNCS conference calls and webinars for potential SIF grantees. To force myself to understand the SIF model and practice articulating its mission and purpose, I elected to write about or present on the SIF whenever the opportunity arose at Maxwell.

In a lot of ways, my interest in the SIF helped craft my post-grad school career decision to manage public-philanthropic partnerships at the Council on Foundations. Last month, I wrote a blog post titled, “Why Should I Care About the Social Innovation Fund?” I also wrote about the SIF (scroll to the bottom) in response to Kevin Jones’ comment asking how it relates to the distinction between builders and buyers, an observation made by Sean Stannard-Stockton.

As with any program or idea, there are a lot of good criticisms. I don’t pretend it’s perfect. But I do see a lot of value in experimenting with this partnership model between government and philanthropy. And, on a personal note, I’m grateful that the SIF helped lead me towards a field of work that I love.

Social Impact Bonds in the Budget

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks I’ve been captivated by the discussion surrounding the proposal to bring social impact bonds (what President Obama’s budget refers to as “pay for success” programs) to the US.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Nonprofit Finance Fund is studying the feasibility of the social impact bond model in the US. Click here to read more about the initiative. If you are interested, I recommend joining their (free) online learning community. Last week, they hosted a fantastic webchat titled “The Federal Government’s Role in Implementing the Social Impact Bond in the United States” with panelists from the Office of Management and Budget, Center for American Progress, Harvard University, and the Rockefeller Foundation. To access the chat transcript and other resources, join the online community.

Interested in exploring what social impact bonds mean for philanthropy, I wrote a short blog post on the Council’s RE: Philanthropy blog, and published a longer version on the Public-Philanthropic Partnership Initiative website.

Social Velocity Interview

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

For about two years now, I have used Twitter as a platform to share thoughts about what’s going on in the world of social innovation. Now, I’m moving beyond 140 characters and hoping to use this space as a vehicle for regular commentary on what I find interesting and important. As I do on Twitter, I’ll focus primarily on topics that relate to social innovation, philanthropy, government, and performance measurement.

Given this new challenge, I am thrilled that Nell Edgington, President of Social Velocity, offered me an opportunity to join the Social Velocity interview series alongside incredible field leaders who have helped design and develop my own thinking.

During the interview, I share specifics on topics that I’ve regularly tweeted about, including how I would measure success for the Social Innovation Fund (SIF):

From my perspective, I see two good measures of success for the SIF. The first measure is whether the community-based organizations that receive public-private funds and resources can achieve their desired impact. Community-based organizations have just begun receiving funds, so we still have to wait and see. The second measure is whether state and local governments elect to implement similar models moving forward. Even before the SIF, state and local governments showed interest in social innovation and entrepreneurship. I am hopeful that these initiatives will continue to exist and new ones will develop. The more of these models that exist, the more opportunities will be available for philanthropy and government to collaborate in supporting social innovation.”

To read more on the SIF, as well as my hope for government and its role in the social innovation movement, check out the full interview.

Thanks to Nell and Social Velocity for inviting me to contribute!

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