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




Articles on social change from the latest edition of SSIR


Winter 2009

Volume 7, Number 1

In the winter 2009 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The New Volunteer Workforce” highlights just how poor a job most nonprofits do of utilizing volunteers—to the tune of $38 billion a year in lost labor. This is an area worth focusing on, as retiring baby boomers begin to turn their attention to volunteer opportunities. And, in “Romanticizing the Poor,” Aneel Karnani tackles the fundamental flaws in viewing those at the “bottom of the pyramid” as fledgling entrepreneurs who only need a small boost in order to turn their lives around.

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Calculated Impact

By estimating the social return on their investments, funders can deploy their dollars more effectively. To demonstrate the power of these calculations, the authors show how three organizations—the Robin Hood Foundation, Acumen Fund, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation—use cost-benefit analysis to evaluate their ongoing programs, choose mission investments, and plan long-term strategies.

By Paul Brest, Hal Harvey, & Kelvin Low

Romanticizing the Poor

Market solutions to poverty, which include services and products targeting consumers at the “bottom of the pyramid,” portray poor people as creative entrepreneurs and discerning consumers. Yet this rosy view of poverty-stricken people is not only wrong, but also harmful.

By Aneel Karnani | 17

The New Volunteer Workforce

Nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers, but most CEOs do a poor job of managing them. As a result, more than one-third of those who volunteer one year do not donate their time the next year—at any nonprofit. That adds up to an estimated $38 billion in lost labor. To remedy this situation, nonprofit leaders must develop a more strategic approach to managing this overlooked and undervalued talent pool. The good news is that new waves of retiring baby boomers and energetic young people are ready to fill the gap.

By David Eisner, Robert T. Grimm Jr., Shannon Maynard, & Susannah Washburn | 20

Lobbying for Good

In their efforts to be socially responsible, most companies fail to wield their most powerful tool: lobbying. Yet corporations such as Mary Kay, Royal Dutch Shell, and General Motors are increasingly leveraging their deep pockets, government contacts, and persuasive powers for the cause of good. Not all kinds of socially responsible lobbying are created equal, however. The authors discuss which forms are best for companies and society.

By Kyle Peterson & Marc Pfitzer | 1

What's Next

Paying for Safe Sex

Paying people to practice safe sex.

By Jennifer Roberts | 1

Meet Me at the Hub

Grab a mocha and brainstorm.

By Jennifer Roberts | 1

Let’s Share

A new evaluation tool allows donors and investors to track their investments and compare their data to those of organizations doing similar work.

By Jennifer Roberts

Food or Fuel?

Mathematical tool helps countries weigh the pros and cons of using biofuel.

By Jennifer Roberts | 1

Beyond Microfinance

Two new players in the world's social investing scene seek financial returns along with social impact.

By Jennifer Roberts

Let’s Play Microloan

Kids win beads and help give loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

By Jennifer Roberts

Treks, Plugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rockers go green.

By Jennifer Roberts

GreenNote Friends

GreenNote helps students with no credit history obtain college loans.

By Jennifer Roberts

Jolly Old Eco-land

Britain tries building carbon-neutral housing to address its housing shortage.

By Jennifer Roberts

Field Report


Nau and Again

When Nau, an outdoor clothing start-up from Portland, Ore., launched in 2005, word on the street had it that the company would push socially responsible business to new heights. But barely a year after putting its earth-toned parkas and virgin merino wool sweaters up for sale in its übercool “webfront” stores, Nau pulled the plug. Find out how Nau tried on too much, too fast.

By Suzie Boss

Eyeing Talent

VisionSpring picks promising social entrepreneurs to restore the eyesight of poor people.

By Corey Harris

Clean Sweep

E + Co connects the dots between energy, poverty, and the environment.

By Suzie Boss | 5

Clicking for Smart CSR

National Instrument's partnerships not only energize science education, but also boost the company's brand and employee morale.

Left: An engineer readies her robot at the 2008 FIRST Lego League World Festival, an annual competition that brings together teams of students to show off their engineering chops. Powering her robot was sophisticated software developed by National Instruments. Her team, the Power Peeps of Swartz Creek, Mich., placed third.

By Abby Rubin

Case Study


In the Black with BRAC

Serving more than 110 million people per year, BRAC is the largest nonprofit in the world. Yet it doesn't receive the most charitable donations. Instead, BRAC's social enterprises generate 80 percent of the organization's annual budget. These revenues have allowed the organization to develop, test, and replicate some of the world's most innovative antipoverty programs.

By Kim Jonker | 7


Confessions of a CSR Champion

It's time to rethink the "C" in CSR.

By Allen L. White | 1

But Does It Work?

How best to assess program performance.

By Jed Emerson

Full Scale Ahead

To grow to full scale, serving 50,000 students a year, YouthBuild's federal funding must increase from $60 million to $125 million annually. Local programs will also need to raise $250 million annually from state and local education and criminal justice funds, and from private donors. How does YouthBuild plan to achieve this breakthrough and help five times as many people?

By Dorothy Stoneman


Starting Up Women

Successful entrepreneurs show characteristics of both men and women.

By Alana Conner

We Hate Heroes

We don't necessarily like people who do the right thing.

By Alana Conner

Objects of Power

Leaders should rethink how they treat their subordinates.

By Alana Conner

The End of the World Is Nigh (Maybe)

Research finds human extinction looms near if consumption levels do not decrease.

By Alana Conner

The Ties That Mobilize

Group attachment and commitment are what drive protesters to act.

By Alana Conner

Education of the Board

Role ambiguity dampens board member's commitments.

By Alana Conner

Universal Care Hurt Quebec’s Kids

Universal child care may not be the best option.

By Alana Conner

Emotional Brands Bring the Bucks

Research shows branding differentiates nonprofits in stakeholders' minds.

By Alana Conner


Paul C. Light

Deconstructing Social Entrepreneurs

The Search for Social Entrepeneurship by Paul C. Light

Reviewed By Diana Wells
Thomas S. Kuhn

Inspiring Innovation

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn

Reviewed By Jessica Jackley Flannery | 2
Inside the Business
of Modern Slavery
Siddharth Kara

An Unconscionable Business

Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara

Reviewed By Holly Burkhalter
A Neuroscientist Reveals
How to Think Differently
Gregory Berns

Great Minds Think Different

Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently by Gregory Berns

Reviewed By Robert J. Sternberg
How the
Rich Can Save the World
Matthew Bishop &
Michael Green

The New Noblesse Oblige

Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World by Matthew Bishop & Michael Green

Reviewed By Joel Fleishman | 1



Q&A: William Brindley

William Brindley spent most of his career keeping financial institutions at the leading edge of technology. Now, as CEO of the nonprofit consortium NetHope, he is using those same skills to help nonprofits do the same. NetHope now has 25 member organizations, among them Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Catholic Relief Services.

By Eric Nee