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




Articles on social change from the latest edition of SSIR


Summer 2008

Volume 6, Number 3

In two articles about microfinance, the summer 2008 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review covers how microfinance providers are funding the poverty-stricken while also creating revenue for investors, and envisioning a future where high volumes and not high margins provide a solid bottom line. This issue’s cover story, “Achieving Breakthrough Performance,” is devoted to the four simple but effective principles used by outstanding managers as they take their organizations into the rarefied realm of breakthrough performance and lasting change.

Tracker Pixel for Entry



Microloan Sharks

Commercial microfinance institutions (MFIs) must calculate two bottom lines: alleviating poverty for clients and also generating profits for investors. To achieve the latter goal, some MFIs charge their impoverished clients exorbitant interest rates. The recent Banco Compartamos IPO in Mexico raises a red flag, demonstrating how easily well-intentioned MFIs and their investors can shift from microlending to microloan-sharking.

By Jonathan C. Lewis

The Equity Capital Gap

For-profit businesses can efficiently and quickly raise large amounts of money to fund growth and innovation by tapping equity capital—money that people invest in a company in return for ownership and a share of profits. The nonprofit world has no corollary, making it difficult, costly, and time-consuming to raise money. In this article the author explores ways that nonprofits and funders can create their own version of equity capital, and, just as important, develop an equity approach to doing business.

By Clara Miller | 2

Reimagining Microfinance

Critics of microfinance institutions (MFIs) ask them to choose between helping the poor or making money for investors, but this is a false choice. MFIs can have their impact and profit, too, says the author, the CEO of the Grameen Foundation. He sketches a new vision of microfinance as a platform, not a product; one that relies on high volumes, not high margins, and that uses limits on private benefit, holistic performance standards, and third-party certification to help MFIs meet both their bottom lines.

By Alex Counts | 9

Achieving Breakthrough Performance

From the Girl Scouts, to Partners In Health, to the city of Providence, R.I., great organizations have one thing in common: great managers. These managers, in turn, share four simple management principles that they use to guide organizations from mere mediocrity to stand-out stardom.

By Mark Gottfredson, Steve Schaubert, & Elisabeth Babcock | 4

Field Report



Tackling HIV

Grassroot Soccer uses the world’s most popular sport to educate kids in sub-Saharan Africa about HIV and its prevention.

By Corey Binns

She’s Crafty

World of Good connects female artisans in poor countries with retailers (including Whole Foods Market, pictured) in the West.

By Leslie Berger | 3


From the Ground Up

Part academic institution, part activist group, part think tank, ATREE crosses sectors to breed a new species of conservation agency in India.

By Brandon Keim


Books to Grow On

How did Room to Read create more than 5,000 libraries in less than eight years? The media have largely focused on founder John Wood as the catalytic figure in the organization's success story. Of equal importance, however, is Room to Read's solid and replicable operational choices.

By Aaron Dalton

Case Study


Taking Stock of Venture Philanthropy

In the early, heady days of the venture philanthropy movement, its proponents touted it as revolutionary, while critics said it was just old wine in new bottles. The experiences of the Center for Venture Philanthropy show that the truth lies somewhere in between: Venture philanthropy is no miracle cure, yet it can be particularly good at building strong organizations, knitting together new networks, and shrinking the power gap between funders and grantees.

By Steven LaFrance and Nancy Latham


Less Is More

Financial aid discourages innovative solutions to poverty.

By Liisa Välikangas & Michael Gibbert | 1


We’ve Arrived. Now What?

Although the donor-advised fund industry is in a high-growth phase, all boats will rise if we worry less about competing with each other and instead find ways to work together. By Kim Wright-Violich, president of Schwab Charitable.

By Kim Wright-Violich | 1

C-Level Diversity

How to get more racial minorities into corner offices.

By John Rice


Fast Food and the Family Farm

It’s time to reform how we grow food and what we have for dinner, says Bruce Boyd, principal and managing director at Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors.

By Bruce Boyd | 7


The Price of Going Left

In new democracies, right-leaning elections attract foreign investors.

By Alana Conner

The Toughest Job You’ll Never Get

Would-be EDs cite inadequate mentoring, low pay, and poor lifestyle as career obstacles.

By Alana Conner

Don’t Save; Be Saved

Conservative Protestants are poorer partly because of their religion.

By Alana Conner | 2

Socially Responsible Business

Smoke and Mirrors

British American Tobacco Malaysia has won the favor of the Malaysian government and people by making donations to cultural institutions, funding scholarships, and developing youth smoking prevention programs. But can a tobacco company ever be socially responsible?

By Alana Conner

Government Cares the Most

Public nursing homes outshine nonprofits and for-profits.

By Alana Conner

Where Nice Is Naughty

In most parts of the world, strangers helping strangers is strange.

By Alana Conner


A Lot of Hot Air

A popular Mexico City program for cutting air pollution from vehicles doesn’t work; in fact sales of new cars, used cars, and gasoline have climbed since the program's launch in 1989.

By Alana Conner


Review: Out of Poverty

Polak offers entrepreneurial solutions to poverty in Asia and Africa.

Reviewed By Paul S. Hudnut

Review: Creating a World Without Poverty

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus aims for a more just society for all.

Reviewed By Stephen C. Smith



15 Minutes with Martin Eakes

Managing Editor Eric Nee spoke with Self-Help’s founder and CEO, Martin Eakes, about the subprime loan crisis and its impact on the poor.

By Eric Nee | 5