Recommended Reads for Transformative Scale: April 2018

04/18/2018 | 3.5 min |


This month's reads include articles about KIPP CEO Richard Barth, the limitations of  "moonshot" thinking, employing the "collective voice" to achieve social change, Girl Effect's mission to empower girls across the globe, and more. 

We're constantly looking for resources that bring new insights to the pursuit of impact at a transformative scale. Here are five interesting pieces we came across recently:

1. Shooting for the Moon, Missing the Point: Courtney Martin warns of the limitations of "moonshot" thinking and metaphors—a warning that can be easily extended to "big bets" and "transformative impact." This shouldn't cause those of us working on transformative scale to abandon the core concepts or the powerful language. But it should push us to keep reflecting, learning, and improving the underlying ideas that we aim to spread about how change occurs in the world. We also need to be clear in our language, recognizing that our words are sometimes heard in different ways than we intend. In response to Martin's article, here is a brief comment I posted, and here is another response posted by Larry Kramer, CEO of the Hewlett Foundation.

2. Impact India blogs: Our colleagues Soumitra Pandey, Rohit Menezes, and Swati Ganeti (who until recently worked at Bridgespan and is now in business school) have written a five-part series on mindset changes required for scaling. The series recently went live on Stanford Social Innovation Review's online Impact India series. Each blog focuses on a different aspect of how Indian nonprofits have scaled, from their "dignity mindset" to their adoption of a "radical frugality mindset" to service provision. We can learn a tremendous amount about scaling from a close look at pioneers in India.

3. Social Enterprise Is Not Social Change: Although social enterprise and social entrepreneurship (SEE) attract great attention as vehicles for social change, they are woefully inadequate to deal with major social problems, write Marshall Ganz, Tamara Kay, and Jason Spicer in the latest issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review. The authors argue that SEE initiatives rarely achieve significant scale, and they make the case that widespread change hinges on knowing "how to employ collective voice and generate the social power needed to redirect public institutions." While there is much to argue with in their description of SEE, their overarching point is important. I highly recommend reading the comments, which explore various facets of the argument.

4. Girl Effect rides on technology to empower poor adolescents: Girl Effect is a fascinating NGO, spun out of Nike three years ago, that focuses on empowering girls by shifting the public's perception of them. The organization has launched cultural products meant to shift attitudes towards girls—like the media platform Yegna in Ethiopia. It has also launched a product called TEGA that encourages girls to gather and share data about their experiences. Girl Effect is a fascinating example of a change strategy centered on demand (what girls need) versus supply (programs and interventions to fix a problem).

5. Lessons in Flexibility from the Nation's Largest Charter School Network: I'm a big admirer of Richard Barth, who has led KIPP, the nation's largest and most successful charter network, for 12 years. Over the course of his tenure, when he observed initial approaches breaking down, he had the flexibility to alter course and make big adjustments. He's also been willing to confront tough data in order to improve outcomes for kids and schools, and continues to push towards transformative impact. KIPP's impact extends far beyond its direct model. It has been crucial in shifting our understanding that all kids can succeed. That knowledge has helped fundamentally change the education reform movement. And the performance of children in KIPP schools has helped to inspire public and private school leaders to aim higher. Like every organization, KIPP constantly faces new challenges, but its approach to learning and adaptation is impressive.

You can always find our latest work toward achieving impact at transformative scale at the Transformative Scale Resource Center. I also regularly tweet about articles on this topic: @JeffBradach.

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