Stanford Social Innovation Review : Informing and inspiring leaders of social change




Articles on social change from the latest edition of SSIR


Fall 2009

Volume 7, Number 4

Sometimes the traditional philanthropic models just aren’t enough. Enter “catalytic philanthropy” and the innovative donors who make it their mission to create real change. In the fall 2009 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, meet the ambitious and mission-driven philanthropists who do much more than write checks. By becoming directly involved and taking personal responsibility these donors form alliances, influence behavior, and make a real difference.

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Recreating Fine Arts Institutions

The fine arts in America are on a perilous path. Attendance at opera, theater, jazz, symphony, and ballet performances has dropped precipitously in recent decades. Just as worrisome, the median age of people attending these events has increased dramatically. If the fine arts are to survive as a living, creative, and significant force in American life, arts institutions need to radically recreate themselves.

By Diane E. Ragsdale

Public-Private Alliances Transform Aid

The dual goals of scalability and sustainability have eluded many development projects. In recent years, however, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has reached out to corporations, nonprofits, and even private citizens to build alliances that are making large-scale, long-term change. In this article, the former head of USAID describes the public-private partnership model that his agency forged, the successes that the model has won, and the struggles that it continues to face.

By Andrew S. Natsios

The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle

A vicious cycle is leaving nonprofits so hungry for decent infrastructure that they can barely function as organizations—let alone serve their beneficiaries. The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much running a nonprofit costs, and results in nonprofits’ misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems—acts that feed funders’ skewed beliefs. To break the nonprofit starvation cycle, funders must take the lead.

By Ann Goggins Gregory & Don Howard | 30

Catalytic Philanthropy

Despite spending vast amounts of money and helping to create the world’s largest nonprofit sector, philanthropists have fallen far short of solving America’s most pressing problems. What the nation needs is “catalytic philanthropy”—a new approach that is already being practiced by some of the most innovative donors.

By Mark R. Kramer | 13

What's Next

Human Rights

In Their Own Words

A social media campaign aims to increase awareness of areas that reduce health risks for domestic workers and employers alike.

By Suzie Boss

Social Entrepreneurship

Embracing Practical Solutions

A $25 baby warmer might stop the tragedy of 450 low-birth-weight babies dying every hour in the developing world.

By Suzie Boss | 1

Urban Development

Banking on Change

Express Credit Union reopens in Seattle to serve the unbanked, underbanked, and want-to-be-banked.

By Suzie Boss

Urban Development

Putting More Fun into Play

In a new playground in Manhattan, "play associates" will encourage youthful creativity while reminding parents and nannies to take a giant step back.

By Suzie Boss

Field Report


Behind the Curve

Corrupt governments cash in on the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s outdated metrics.

By J. Peter Pham | 5

The Answer Is on the Ground

The solutions to seemingly impossible problems already exist in the communities facing those problems.

By Adrienne Day

Funding the Future in China

Qifang, an online peer-to-peer lending platform, expands access to education for the world's largest student population.

By Suzie Boss | 1

The Entrepreneurial Union

Freelance workers, whose numbers are growing, are left without health insurance, a retirement plan, or a work community. The Freelancers Union meets these needs.

By Amy Wilkinson | 7

Case Study


A Fine Green Niche

Maria Yee established her eco-friendly, high-end furniture company long before going green was the done thing. Two decades later, her company's environmentally sound practices not only reflect a planet-friendly ethos, but also drive a market-friendly creative edge.

By Maria Shao



The Madoff Philanthropic Implosion

With many in the community losing their savings in the Madoff scandal, Jewish philanthropies took a hard hit.

By Max L. Kleinman

Great Teachers on the Fast Track

To save the nation, the United States needs alternative teacher training.

By Susan Colby & Tia Martinez

A Nature State of Mind

True restoration—environmental and economic—will not come from congressional legislation, top-down stimulus money, or EPA rulings.

By Spencer B. Beebe & Ian Gill | 3

Microfinance for the Most Marginalized

Small loans are tipping the social scales for Roma people.

By Christopher J. Varady & Mila Gavrilova

A Light in City Hall

How one newcomer to the Los Angeles mayor’s office mixed government with philanthropy to make change.

By Torie Osborn


Medicare Saves Lives

Patients insured by Medicare are less likely to die within a week of hospital admission than their slightly younger counterparts.

By Alana Conner

Human Rights

Diversity Brings the Dollars

More diverse workplaces have higher revenues, more customers, larger market shares, and greater relative profits.

By Alana Conner

Why They Stayed

New research reveals the economic hardships that Katrina's "stayers" were battling and the abundance of negative opinions about them.

By Alana Conner

How to Survive the Recession

The current recession has left few nonprofits unscathed and has hit theaters particularly hard. Creative entrepreneurial changes have proven more effective than the traditional belt-tightening.

By Alana Conner

It’s Not About the Work Ethic

Protestants' work ethic is a product of the denomination's emphasis on education.

By Alana Conner | 1


The Science of a
Meaningful Life
Dacher Keltner

Rethinking Human Nature

Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life by Dacher Keltner

Reviewed By Maria Surricchio | 2
The Individual and
the Innovative
John W. Gardner

Staying Vibrant and Curious

Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society by John Gardner

Reviewed By Jacqueline Novogratz | 6
Hundred-Year Conflict
Between Global
Conservation and
Native Peoples
Mark Dowie

Good Guy vs. Good Guy

Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year-Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native Peoples by Mark Dowie

Reviewed By Bill Adams
Remarkable Success
Story of BRAC, the
Global Grassroots
Organization That’s
Winning the Fight
Against Poverty
Ian Smillie

The House That BRAC Built

Freedom from Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC, the Global Grassroots Organization That's Winning the Fight Against Poverty by Ian Smillie

Reviewed By Sally Osberg | 1



Q&A: Fred Krupp

Under Fred Krupp’s leadership, the Environmental Defense Fund has become one of the most important power brokers in the environmental arena. Krupp has helped accomplish what some thought was impossible—getting businesses to go green voluntarily.

By Eric Nee | 2