In the first issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, the editors laid out their goals for the publication. “SSIR is dedicated to presenting usable knowledge that will help those who do the important work of improving society do it even better.” This was to be a publication written for, and largely by, people actively engaged in social change around the world. It would be a forum where leaders from all sectors of society—nonprofit, government, and business—could come together to put forth new ideas and practices, critique existing ones, and most important, learn from one another. And because it was published by Stanford University, SSIR would pay particular attention to bridging the all-too-frequent gap between academic research and practice-based knowledge.
These were ambitious goals, and in some instances unusual ones, but we are proud to say that over the past 10 years SSIR has largely lived up to them. Take the goal of bridging sectors. Even though most people now recognize that all sectors need to be involved in solving social problems, SSIR is still one of the few publications that are sector agnostic: We publish articles about social innovation in the government, business, and nonprofit sectors.
SSIR examines all types of social issues, from climate change to education, not just a single one. That’s because we believe that these issues are often intertwined, and because social innovators can benefit from looking outside their own issues. There is also a great deal that can be learned by looking beyond one’s national boundaries, which is why we are as likely to examine mobile banking in Kenya as we are to look at urban gardening in Detroit.
We don’t just cut across sectors, issues, and geographies. Equally important, SSIR prides itself on the critical perspective we bring to examining ideas and practices. In 2007, when many people in economic development circles were heaping accolades on microfinance, SSIR ran a series of articles that closely examined the limitations of this approach in actually lifting large groups of people out of poverty. Over the last year, SSIR has similarly run numerous articles in print and online about the potential and limitations of impact investing.
Besides providing a forum for people to debate the efficacy of existing ideas and practices, we strive to bring forth significant new ideas to the field. The concept of collective impact, for example, was incubated at SSIR. We have helped popularize other ideas and practices as well, such as strategic philanthropy, the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, and venture philanthropy. And we have succeeded in bridging the gap between research and practice by running articles from prominent people inside and outside academia.
As we enter our second decade, we look forward to continuing to be a forum that will, in the words of the editors in 2003, “broker conversations, ask hard questions, disseminate the fruits of rigorous research, and showcase examples of what can be done to further the art of improving the lot of the world.”