Over the last year, increasing political polarization both in the United States and abroad has fueled contentious debates on a wide range of social and environmental issues. Many of Stanford Social Innovation Review’s most popular articles this year offered strategies for reducing this polarization through improved communication tactics, and using newer and better tools to promote social good. The following articles are organized in order of popularity.
Effective communication is not simply about getting your message out; it’s about strategically tapping into what shapes people’s feelings and values. University of Florida’s Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand share five principles from social science that can help social sector leaders connect their work to what people care most about.
Humans have always used stories to make sense of chaos. Ella Saltmarshe—co-founder of projects such as The Comms Lab and SHEvotes—offers a field guide to three qualities of story and narrative that all sectors can use to change systems.
Rigorous social impact evaluations are a good investment only in the right circumstances. University of Washington’s Mary Kay Gugerty and Northwestern University’s Dean Karlan suggest that, in many cases, organizations will get more benefit from building a culture that regularly collects, analyzes, and applies data to manage implementation and improve programs. Open-access to this article made possible by Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Solving systemic social problems takes people, politics, and power—not more social entrepreneurship. Harvard Kennedy School’s Marshall Ganz, University of Notre Dame’s Tamara Kay, and MIT’s Jason Spicer argue that social entrepreneurship has done little to impact the problems it aspires to solve and has risen to popularity despite a lack of evidence for its effectiveness.
Collaborations and networks rarely achieve their ambitious goals. Converge partners David Ehrlichman, David Sawyer, and Matthew Spence describe what it takes to make them actually work, outlining five strategies that promote effective and beneficial collaborations.
University of Florida’s Annie Niemand argues that the science of storytelling—the study of how to tell stories intentionally to overcome psychological barriers that can inhibit or encourage belief and behavior change—provides insights that can help organizations tell compelling and persuasive stories about complex issues.
Blockchain technology, while typically associated with cryptocurrencies, could be used to record different types of transactions across a wide range of industries. David Lehr, a corporate social responsibility and economic development consultant, and Paul Lamb, principal at Man on a Mission Consulting, describe how decentralized technologies are transforming philanthropy and NGO work.
Mark Kramer, co-founder of FSG and a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, reviews Winners Take All, in which writer Anand Giridharadas calls out the hypocrisies of philanthropists. Kramer reflects on the larger implications of Giridharadas’s arguments, and provides his own insight into questions posed in the book.
Conventional wisdom suggests that a “clean break” is the best way to transition a founder. However, Bridgespan Group’s Jari Tuomala, Donald Yeh, and Katie Smith Milway write that many nonprofits benefit when they carefully plan an extended role for founders who step down.
Glasgow Caledonian University’s Michael J. Roy, Neil McHugh, and Stephen Sinclair argue that social impact bonds (SIBs) come with significant technical burdens and exemplify an ideological shift in welfare service provision. Despite their popularity, they believe SIBs are far from being a win-win financial instrument for social good.