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A Call to Evaluate Social Innovation...Differently

Author: Hallie Preskill
Published Date: 25 September 2012

By Hallie Preskill

Question: What do the following foundation led initiatives have in common?

  • The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s YouthScape program tested strategies for involving excluded youth in the community development process, in part by encouraging traditionally adult-focused organizations to examine and re-design their values, structures, and processes.
  • The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge (KCIC) funded 76 community and place-based projects, to create and support new news models, online information hubs, citizen journalism activities, youth media outlets, advocacy campaigns, and civic engagement activities, in an effort to keep communities informed and engaged.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Community Partnerships portfolio focuses on improving postsecondary completion rates for low income young adults through the activation and coordination of a number of diverse stakeholders. Community partnerships use data to inform their strategy, they seek to build commitment among stakeholders, and they tackle policy and practice change.

Answer: They are all social innovations!

As solutions to social problems have become more complex and challenging, the philanthropic and non-profit sector has been experimenting with a variety of approaches such as systems building, policy advocacy, cross-sector collaboration, movement and network building, and collective impact, as a means to affect change more rapidly and effectively.

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