What is Stanford Social Innovation Review?

Since its founding in 2003, Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) has emerged as the preeminent publication for people engaged in social innovation. We publish authoritative, cutting-edge thinking on issues facing leaders of nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and government agencies.

SSIR is based at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, but it is written for a global audience of changemakers. We cover a wide range of topics, including social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, and philanthropic strategies, as well as educational reform, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection.

Our readers are highly educated, widely read, and well informed about the field of social innovation. They want to be provoked, surprised, and enlightened. They don’t want to read long-winded arguments, insider jargon, or narrowly technical writing.         

SSIR’s editorial focus is decidedly cross-sector. We cover individuals and organizations whose work has impact on the business, nonprofit, and governmental sectors, and we have a special interest in cross-sector solutions to global problems.

Who reads SSIR?

Our readers come from all segments of society. About one-third of them fill the CEO, president, or executive director role within their organization, and another one-third occupy other leadership positions. Close to half of SSIR’s readers lead nonprofit organizations, and about 15 percent are leaders in foundations or other philanthropic institutions. The remaining one-third consists of people who work in business, government, academia, and other fields.

SSIR readers are actively engaged in solving a wide variety of social, environmental, and organizational problems. About 25 percent of work in education, about 25 percent work in human services (such as food and housing), about 15 percent work in health, and the remaining 35 percent work in environmental protection, foreign affairs, economic development, human rights, the arts, and other fields.

What kind of articles is SSIR looking for?

We seek to present interesting, original, and important ideas and information in social innovation to leaders who can put those ideas insights to work.

In evaluating an article idea, SSIR editors ask the following questions:

• Is the idea new? Or, alternatively, does it offer a new perspective on an existing idea?

• Can readers use the idea to do their work better?

• Does the author support the idea with compelling real-world examples?

• Is the article about an organization, practice, or project that is truly innovative?

• Is the article based on research or on substantial experience with the subject?

• Does the author offer compelling insight and analysis that draws on that research or experience?

• Would the article interest most readers, or is the topic so narrow that it would interest only a small segment of readers?

• Is the author trying to inform readers, or merely to sell something to them? (Would the article be useful to readers only if they use the author’s product or service?)

What types of articles do external authors write for SSIR?

We invite external authors to submit articles and article proposals for four sections of the magazine: Case Study, Features, Viewpoint, and Books. In addition, we welcome submission of article and op-ed proposals for SSIR Online. Also at SSIR Online, we regularly publish excerpts from new books, and we invite publisher representatives to submit excerpt proposals

Case Study

• Provides an in-depth analysis of a management challenge faced by a nonprofit organization, socially responsible business, or government agency.

• Offers a narrative account of how the organization adapted its mission, strategy, or structure to address a specific challenge or set of challenges.

• Includes quotations of the principal figures involved in the case.

• Seeks to answer three or four questions that raise high-level strategic issues that are relevant to other organizations.

• Note: We do not allow someone who works for an organization to write a case study about that organization.

• Between 3,500 and 4,500 words long.

Up for Debate

• Makes a provocative argument about a subject on which there are a wide range of views.

• Addresses a broad and significant issue that is of keen interest to SSIR readers.

• Written in a way that will encourage other leaders, practitioners, and scholars to respond by presenting contrasting or complementary arguments. (SSIR editors will take responsibility for eliciting and developing response essays.)

• Between 3,000 and 4,000 words long.


• Introduces a new and creative solution to a social, environmental, or organizational problem; a novel explanation of that problem; or a new perspective that illuminates the problem and helps inform decision-making.

• Illustrates the solution or explanation with research findings, or with detailed examples drawn from multiple organizations.

• Explores the implications of the solution or explanation, and addresses its possible shortcomings.

• Written by scholars, practitioners, and organizational leaders who bring wide-ranging expertise or experience to the topic at hand.

• Between 4,000 and 4,500 words long.


• Presents insightful commentary with a clear point of view, and supports that point by reference to research or to firsthand experience.

• Written by a frontline practitioner, or by a scholar or thought leader, in the field of social innovation.

• About 1,500 words long.

Book Review

• Delivers a balanced but opinionated critique of a recently published book about social change, philanthropy, social enterprise, or an important social issue.

• Features only books that can be reviewed in advance of their publication date. (Previously published books are eligible for inclusion in the book excerpt section of SSIR Online. See details below.)

• About 800 words long.

SSIR Online

• Provides a clear, timely, and provocative discussion of a topic that is of current or ongoing interest to practitioners in the field of social innovation.

• Written in a clear, engaging, and accessible first-person style.

• About 800-1,000 words long.

Download more in-depth submission guidelines for SSIR Online here.

Book Excerpt (SSIR Online)

• Gives readers a sampling of a book published within the previous six months. (Authors or publicists should submit a copy of the full book; a suggested excerpt; a short, contextualizing introduction to the excerpt by the author or co-authors; a listing of the book’s publisher, publication year, and page count; a high-resolution book cover image; a two-sentence biography of each author or co-author; and a headshot of each author or co-author.)

• 1,000 to 2,000 words long

If you propose to write a Case Study, Feature, or Viewpoint article, or a post to SSIR Online, please send us a “pitch”—an explanation of your article that addresses the following questions.

• What is the central idea or topic of the article?

• What makes this idea or topic new?

• What makes this idea or topic important?

• What makes this idea or topic innovative?

• What makes this idea or topic timely?

• How would SSIR readers use your article to inform their work?

• How would your article differ from other articles about this idea or topic?

• Which kinds of research or experience will you cite in the article?

• Which real-world examples will support your argument?

As a rule, a pitch note should be between one and two pages long. With a pitch for a post to SSIR Online, a shorter note (one or two paragraphs long) is usually sufficient.

If you propose to write a Feature or Case Study article, you should also provide a two- to three-page narrative outline that sets forth the structure of the article and describes what each of its sections would cover. A typical outline will include a one-paragraph summary of the entire article, followed by a two- or three-paragraph summary of each section that describes main points, examples, and other pertinent information. If you have already written a draft of the article, feel free to include the draft with your proposal. But the draft cannot substitute for the pitch note and the outline.

What types of articles do professional journalists write for the SSIR?

SSIR editors and a stable of freelance writers contribute articles to the What’s Next, Field Report, and Research sections. (Professional writers also contribute articles to the Case Study section.) For these types of articles, SSIR editors welcome ideas from people who think that the magazine should cover a particular person, organization, product, project, trend, or work of research. If the article idea fits the magazine’s editorial needs, the editors will assign it to a professional writer.

What’s Next

• Describes a new, promising, but not yet proven solution to an important social, environmental, or organizational problem.

• About 700 words long.

Field Report

• Profiles an innovative organization, initiative, or project that seeks—effectively or not so effectively—to deliver a solution to an important social, environmental, or organizational problem.

• About 1,500 words long.


• Discusses an article based on substantial empirical research that recently appeared in a scholarly and professional journal.

• About 500 words long.

How do I submit an article proposal?

Please submit your article proposal to one, and only one, of the following editors. (If you are not sure which section your article would best fit, submit it to editor@ssir.org.)

• Submit proposals for Feature and Up for Debate articles to Eric Nee, managing editor, ericnee@stanford.edu.

• Submit proposals for Case Study, Viewpoint, and Research articles to David V. Johnson, senior editor, dvj@stanford.edu.

• Submit proposals for posts to SSIR Online to Jenifer Morgan, senior digital editor, jeniferm@stanford.edu.

• Submit proposals for Field Report, What's Next, Book Reviews, and Book Excerpts to Justine Drennan, assistant editor, jdrennan@stanford.edu.

Please observe these guidelines:

• Submit your proposal via email. We do not accept proposals submitted by fax or physical mail. No phone calls please.

• Submit your proposal in a Word format (.doc or .docx files). We will not review documents submitted in a PDF, PowerPoint, or Word 2007 format.

• Include the name, address, phone number, and email address for all authors. Also include information on each author’s position and institutional affiliation.

• State clearly, in the proposal or in a cover letter, that your article has not appeared elsewhere and that you will not submit it to another publication unless SSIR declines to publish it.

• Understand that all authors, upon acceptance of their article, will need to assign copyright of the article to Stanford University.

What happens to my proposal after SSIR receives it?

SSIR will acknowledge receipt of your proposal within one to two weeks. SSIR editors will then review the proposal, and that process can take up to two months. We respond to all proposals, but we are not able to provide substantive feedback on each one that we receive. If we think that your proposal to write an article has promise, we will ask you to write it. Please note: An invitation to submit an article draft does not constitute acceptance of the article. In the case of proposed Feature articles, a committee that includes SSIR’s academic editor, managing editor, and senior editor carefully reviews each proposal before accepting it. We thank you in advance for your patience with our evaluation process.

If SSIR accepts your article, an editor will take charge of preparing it for publication. SSIR editors work collaboratively with authors to ensure that each article is clear, concise, and engaging. If necessary, they will substantially edit or rewrite a draft to create an article that will appeal to SSIR readers.

Authors are responsible for verifying all facts, including dates of events and spellings of proper names. SSIR editors have the final say on creating and selecting headlines, illustrations, and other ancillary content, and on the placement of each article in the magazine and in other SSIR media. For each article, SSIR requires authors to transfer exclusive copyrights, including the right of electronic distribution, to Stanford University.

What level of attribution does SSIR require?

Authors should provide citations for all direct quotations, paraphrased statements, and borrowed ideas. In your initial draft, be sure to state clearly which ideas and language are yours and which ones are drawn from someone else. Err on the side of including source notes. Then, if we accept your article for publication, we will work with you to determine whether and how to cite sources in the finished article. To make the article readable, we prefer to incorporate attributions into the article text whenever possible. Do not worry about the format for source notes; we will edit them to conform to SSIR house style.

Are there any restrictions on who can write for SSIR?

We welcome proposals from everyone. Please tell us about any financial or other relationship you may have with companies or organizations cited in the proposed article. We need to know if you have a consulting relationship, for example, or if you serve on a governing board. These sorts of relationships do not necessarily disqualify you from writing the article, but because they can color your views, we need to be aware of them.