This year, our most popular articles addressed issues in education, impact investing, nonprofit management, international development, technology, and grassroots activism. The tactics of social sector work—how we think about and practically approach our social innovation efforts—were front and center. We’ve temporarily opened up all of these articles to both subscribers and nonsubscribers, and hope you enjoy both the articles themselves, as well as the rich, thoughtful, and uniquely civil responses and discussions in the comment sections.
1. Rethinking How Students Succeed
This Up for Debate article, authors from The Bridgespan Group examine a variety of education initiatives, and make the case that a focus on noncognitive skills—so-called “soft skills” such as self-control and relationship development—can lead to more effective teaching and learning behaviors. Author Paul Tough, philanthropists Jeff & Tricia Raikes, and others respond.
2. Philanthropy’s New Frontier—Impact Investing
Featured in the SSIR Global special edition Impact India, author Michael Etzel encourages philanthropists to invest in promising enterprises that have significant social impact, even if they offer below-market-rate returns.
3. The Nonprofit Leadership Development Deficit
Studies show that leadership succession planning is a top organizational concern for nonprofits. To address this, contributors Libbie Landles-Cobb, Kirk Kramer, & Katie Smith Milway encourage nonprofits to develop talent internally and offer guidelines for connecting those efforts to organizational goals.
4. The Promise of Lean Experimentation
Peter Murray and Steve Ma of Accelerate Change outline the core principles of the lean experimentation process increasingly used in the business world, and explain how nonprofits might benefit from embracing more experimentation and iterative testing in their work.
5. Using Design Thinking to Eradicate Poverty Creation
In this provocative op-ed, Martin Kirk and Joe Brewer of /TheRules and anthropologist Jason Hickel argue that the international development industry needs to change how it defines the problem it is trying to address, face “a built-in blindness to power dynamics,” and rethink the language it uses to describe poverty.
6. Empowering Women at the Grassroots
More and more companies design initiatives to develop the economic potential of women. Wilson Center fellow Marissa Wesely and former JPMorgan Chase CFO Dina Dublon explain how companies—in partnership with global women’s organizations—have an opportunity to improve the lives of individuals, as well as shift global gender norms.
7. Are Nonprofits Getting in the Way of Social Change?
In this article, Paul Klein, president of the B Corp Impakt, argues that nonprofits need to evolve—from self-interested to collaborative, and from institutional to entrepreneurial—to meet the expectations of funders. He also offers three ideas for increasing nonprofit effectiveness, including pay-for-performance executive compensation.
8. The Future of Fundraising
Curt Swindoll, executive vice president of the fundraising consultancy Pursuant, outlines four nonprofit fundraising trends, including the rise of more transitional organizations that form to address an immediate challenge and then disband.
9. Disruption for Good
Philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen examines how shifts in technology could increase the overall impact of philanthropy, in part by allowing donors to stay connected to their dollars and nonprofits to their impact.
10. The Wall Street Takeover of Nonprofit Boards
Garry W. Jenkins, former COO of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, writes about another shift—the quiet but dramatic shift to include more financial executives on nonprofit boards—and examines how this trend influences values across nonprofit leadership.
Read more stories by Jenifer Morgan.