October 26, 2016

Recommended Reads for Transformative Scale: October 2016

In this month's Recommend Reads, Jeff Bradach highlights articles on technology's role in changing the landscape of impact investing in India; Independent Sector's report on how Americans trust and value the charitable sector; philanthropy's role in trying to abolish the death penalty, and more. 

I am constantly looking for different takes and new insights about achieving impact at a transformative scale. Here are five interesting pieces I came across this month:

1. Q&A with Roopa Kudva: Smartphones + Aadhaar = Tipping Point for Impact Investing in India: Dennis Price (@dennisaprice) of ImpactAlpha interviews Omidyar Network partner Roopa Kudva about impact investment in India. Technology is rapidly changing the landscape: "The penetration of smartphones and India's new national digital identity program (Aadhaar) are creating unprecedented opportunities for the country's growing number of entrepreneurs." The Omidyar team senses a tipping point for impact investing in India and is doubling its investments over the next few years. The potential for achieving huge scale through these models is extraordinary.

2. Spending $1 Billion On Reducing Unintended Pregnancy Would Deliver $6 Billion To The Economy: A look at the impact of programs across the country aimed at reducing unintended and teen pregnancy through making long-acting reversible contraceptives widely available. Recent programs in Colorado and St. Louis have yielded tremendous reductions in unintended pregnancy. A billion dollar investment in this strategy—which is a huge but not unattainable number—could generate $6 billion in economic returns for the target population. This is a classic example of starting with an effective, evidence-based model, and then navigating the challenge of scaling it. (The piece is based on work by Bridgespan and others, like Brookings economist Isabel Sawhill [@isawhill]).

3. United for Charity: How Americans trust and value the charitable sector: An Independent Sector (@IndSector) report on the credibility of the charitable sector in the United States. For example, "[a] strong majority of voters (78 percent) support a bigger role for the charitable sector in working with the federal government to produce more effective and efficient solutions to problems." It's a reminder that while public sector solutions, hybrid private sector models, impact investments, etc. are all important mechanisms for achieving scale, the traditionally defined charitable sector has some key strengths that may be critical to solving problems at scale.

4. Releasing Platform Design Toolkit 2.0 Final: An interesting new toolkit aimed at helping people "design collaborative services for the ecosystems of 21st century." In the for-profit sector, platform businesses account for many of the exponential growth stories of the last decade—and they are a promising mechanism for achieving scale in the social sector, as well. But the question of how to craft a successful platform is notoriously thorny, so bringing some structure to the design process is a welcome addition. Excitingly, creator Simone Cicero (@meedabyte) and his team released the toolkit for free under a Creative Commons license so they could get more and better feedback on how the tools work.

5. Philanthropy And The Death Penalty: Bridgespan's own William Foster with an important piece in Forbes. (Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) had a longer treatment of the topic in June.) Atlantic Philanthropies (@atlantic) invested more than $60 million in trying to end the death penalty in the United States. The scale of investment, types of strategies, long timelines, and risks involved in advocacy or social movement investments make some philanthropists uncomfortable: "moving the legal or cultural norms of a country is no mean feat." But, if successful, the potential scale can be incredible. Today, as the New York Times Editorial Board recently highlighted, "signs of capital punishment's impending demise are all around."

Let me add a bonus read that came out just a few days ago: Many Ways to Many, a piece posted on SSIR.org that lays out a way of thinking about the effectiveness of different kinds of learning networks—methods for spreading "effective solutions and innovations to everyone who can benefit from them." As more people think about learning networks, it is crucial to develop our understanding of what distinguishes those that truly spread ideas, adapt over time, and strengthen the performance of the whole. For a close cousin of learning networks, see a post I did on aligned action networks that references the work of many other social sector leaders.

You can find posts about transformative scale, including past installments of Recommended Reads, on our blog. I also Tweet regularly about transformative scale: @JeffBradach.

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