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Intentional Innovation: How getting more systematic about innovation could improve philanthropy and increase social impact

Author: Costanza Cappello
Published Date: 20 November 2008

The social sector is full of innovation. But too often, foundations and nonprofits treat it like a mystery, waiting and hoping for the lighting strike of great new ideas.

A growing body of literature and practice now suggests that innovation doesn't have to be such an uncontrollable force--it can be a rational management process with its own distinctive set of processes, procedures, and tools. Intentional Innovation: How Getting More Systematic about Innovation Could Improve Philanthropy and Increase Social Impact is the product of a year-long investigation undertaken by the Monitor Institute and Clohesy Consulting for the Kellogg Foundation that explores innnovation--not for its own sake--but to understand how being more deliberate about innovation could help foundations find new and better ways to make a difference in the world.

The report provides a framework for thinking about innovation that lays out a basic model for what it means to "do" innovation systematically, as well as a schema for understanding the different opportunity spaces where philanthropic institutions can innovate. It also includes a collection of examples of the innovations and experiments in philanthropic practice that are going on across the country and around the world.

The paper is intended not as a comprehensive answer to all of the field's questions about innovation, but as a starting place for discussions about how philanthropy can become more intentionally innovative, and as a result, have a greater impact on the issues we care about most.