The internal operations of social sector organizations can make or break their impact. “Toxic” workplace cultures make headlines for failing to support employees’ personal and professional needs, but dated management mantras and undefined core values also hold back individuals and organizations. Leaders who devote their professional lives to social good must strive to live their values within the confines of their office walls and set up the conditions for others to do the same.
Here are seven articles about how organizations can look inward to better foster a culture where employees are empowered to thrive, collaborate, and innovate for maximum social impact.
Most nonprofit leaders know that delivering the same services in the same manner is insufficient, and yet few say their organizations are set up to consistently innovate. Laura Lanzerotti, Daniel Pink, and Nidhi Sahni, of the Bridgespan Group, and Amira Bliss, an associate director at the Rockefeller Foundation offer six starting points for nonprofits that want to build their internal capacity to continuously innovate.
Defining your organization’s core cultural values can help guide internal and external decision-making, foster innovation and collaboration, and even attract talent. Mollie West, an organizational designer at IDEO, offers practical guidance, highlighting examples from three B corporations: Method Products, Etsy, and Warby Parker.
To build truly collaborative cultures, leaders must spend the time and energy on infusing collaboration into all aspects of their organizations, writes Pratichi Shah, founder and CEO of Flourish Talent Management Solutions. Doing so requires that they focus on three organizational pillars: culture, people, and leadership.
Polina Makievsky, senior vice president of knowledge, leadership, and innovation at Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, calls on leaders to challenge conventional wisdom in order to increase their innovation capacity. For example, the CEO and C-Suite team should not be the only staff responsible for innovative thinking, she writes. The innovative leader breaks down organizational barriers so that all staff are visionaries and responsible for innovation.
“To what degree are we building organizations in which our internal operations are in strict and careful alignment with our external mission?” asks Jess Rimington, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Global Projects Center. Rimington offers five suggestions for ensuring that the two align and encourages social innovators to learn from other organizations’ failures.
In 2013, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton published an SSIR article called “A Team of Teams World,” describing an organizational model that does away with traditional hierarchies and emphasizes decentralized autonomy, meritocracy, and a sense of partnership. Today, that model is emerging as an important factor in organizational success and may become a standard throughout the social sector, write William F. Meehan III, the Lafayette Partners Lecturer in Strategic Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Kim Starkey Jonker, president and CEO of King Philanthropies.
At their core, many organizational challenges are cultural, not technical, writes David La Piana, founder and managing partner of La Piana Consulting. Targeted, standalone initiatives in areas like diversity, equity, and inclusion can help advance strategic organizational change, but better approaches often involve broader changes to internal culture.