August 31, 2017

Recommended Reads for Transformative Scale: August 2017

I'm always searching for new resources that shed light on how to achieve impact at transformative scale. Below are a few thought-provoking articles that grabbed my attention.

1. "NGOs, social sector companies bank on innovation": In this Times of India article, Rupali Mukherjee (@Rupalijee) highlights a few of the many lessons India offers on achieving massive impact at transformative scale. Rupali describes how Indian NGOs such as Aravind, Sampark Smart Shala, and PRADAN have used innovative cost management, hiring, and distribution strategies to reach often hundreds of thousands of people. As Bridgespan colleague Katie Smith Milway notes in the article, "there may be no better laboratory than India" to study scaling strategies.

2. "Can a Tech Start-Up Successfully Educate Children in the Developing World?": Written by Peg Tyre (@pegtyre) in The New York Times, this article shows how, similar to the Indian nonprofits above, Bridge International Academies employs innovative cost management and tech distribution strategies to deliver high quality education for less than $126 per child a year to thousands of children. Despite its impressive results to date, Bridges still faces numerous challenges to reach the estimated 700 million children who could benefit from its services. This fascinating read provides an in-depth look into a few of those challenges, ranging from complex and fierce political forces to demand generation, and raises several issues to consider in the pursuit of impact at transformative scale (in this case, with a particular focus on for-profit efforts).

3. "Thinking Locally and Acting Globally: The Amazing Legacy of Rotary International": In this Medium article, Chris Elias (@ChrisJElias) reminds us that networks of local civic organizations, such as Rotary Clubs, can create large platforms to achieve transformative impact at scale. Rotary International was one of the first organizations to create a global network of local community service hubs and unite them behind one common goal: eliminating polio. In 1979 Rotary began a multiyear effort to immunize six million children in the Philippines against polio and has deployed network resources to scale each year. Today, Rotary is a key part of the effort that is on the cusp of eradicating polio, with only 37 cases recorded last year—a tremendous achievement!

4. "Kiva hits $1B in crowdfunded loans": In this article, Catherine Cheney (@catherinecheney) briefly outlines how Kiva has achieved tremendous scale to provide more than $1 billion in loan capital to millions of entrepreneurs. Kiva's success helps to address the problem of the "missing middle." As many entrepreneurs pursue scale, they eventually outgrow initial seed capital but may not be ready to attract commercial capital. Kiva's crowdfunding helps entrepreneurs bridge this funding gap by connecting them directly to lenders with different levels of risk tolerance. Kiva's pioneering work in social impact crowdfunding opens other possibilities for new ways to finance scale (check out Kiva's Women's Entrepreneur Fund and World Refugee Fund).

5. "Race to Lead: Confronting the Racial Leadership Gap": Written by the Building Movement Project (@fkunreuther), this report contains important data and insights regarding the social sector's racial leadership gap. For the past decade, the number of executive director roles filled by people of color has remained under 20 percent. Beyond being a transformative scale challenge in its own right (i.e., what will it take to close this gap), it's also a critical enabler of many other efforts—namely, having a diverse cadre of leaders who understand the different facets of the social problems we face and the impact we hope to achieve.

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

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